Korach – Proper Sensitivity Towards Indirect Damage


There is an argument in Maseches Sanhedrin as to whether the 250 followers of Korach who were involved in the revolt against Aharon and Moshe in this week’s Torah portion of Korach will have a share in Olam Haba, The World to Come. Rebbe Akiva is of the opinion that they lost their share in the World to Come, and there is actually an argument whether they earned back their portion in the World To Come on their own merits as Rav Yehuda ben Beseira proves or whether it’s only because Chana, Shmuel Hanavi’s mother, prayed for them, as per Rebbe Eliezer.
The Mishna in Perek Chelek of Sanhedrin states, “The assembly of Korach is not destined to arise for resurrection, as it is stated: ‘And the earth closed upon them’ (Numbers 16:33), meaning in this world, and also: “And they perished from among the assembly” (Numbers 16:33), meaning in the World-to-Come; this is the statement of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Eliezer says: About them the verse says: ‘The Lord kills and makes alive; He lowers to the grave, and raises’ (I Samuel 2:6), indicating that the assembly of Korach has a share in the World-to-Come” (Mishna in Sanhedrin 108a). However the gemara there on daf 109b says, “The Sages taught in a baraisa (Tosefta 13:9): The members of the assembly of Korach have no share in the World-to-Come, as it is stated: “And the earth closed upon them” (Numbers 16:33), meaning in this world, and also: “And they perished from among the assembly” (Numbers 16:33), meaning in the World-to-Come; this is the statement of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Yehuda ben Beseira says: Although it says that they perished, they are like a lost item that is sought, ultimately found, and rehabilitated, as it is stated: “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant, for I do not forget your mitzvot” (Psalms 119:176).” Rashi there on daf 109b explaining why they deserve a share in the World to come says that they fulfilled all Your mitzvos as it writes, “For all the assembly are all holy” (Bamidbar 16:3).

The Maharsha explains Rebbe Eliezer’s view as follows, “Chana prayed for them because, as Chaza”l in the Medrish Tanchuma (Korach paragraph 5) observes, that Korach saw a chain of good lineage coming from him and this he brought to the argument, but he didn’t know his sons would repent and from them came Shmuel. We see from here that Shmuel was the reason for Korach’s argument on Moshe. For this reason, when Chana says about herself ‘While the barren woman has born seven…The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up’ (Shmuel Alef 2:5, 6). Since out of Your mercy, I was treated graciously for a barren women like myself was able to give birth to 7 children, however these children caused Korach to make a mistake, which is considered indirect damaging therefore [Chana says] I pray for them that You will cause them to die and cause them to come back alive and if they don’t die, rather they went down alive straight into the depths of Gehenom, at least bring them back up.” (Click here fore Hebrew text.)
Chana, Shmuel’s mother, pleaded to Hashem after many barren years to have a child, many many generations after her ancestor, Korach, rebelled against Moshe Rabbeinu. Korach misunderstood his prophecy, seen through Divine inspiration, that he would have righteous people like Shmuel Hanavi come from his offspring; meaning he was deserving of the leadership, not Moshe. Furthermore, Chana did not even pray for Korach, but for the 250 people who were convinced to follow Korach’s lead. Thirdly, they of their own free will chose to follow Korach. Lastly, Hashem miraculously granted her children for according to natural causes she did not have the ability to bear children. Chana’s responsibility for causing the revolt of Korach and his followers by having Shmuel wasn’t just indirect, it was very indirect, seemingly not even her fault at all. So why did she feel responsible to pray on their behalf, which led to Hashem answering her prayers and overturning the ban they had from entering Olam Haba, which seems to imply the prayers and reason for the prayers were legitimate?

We see from here the extent one must feel responsible for another, no matter how indirect your involvement is. If there is even the slightest bit of connection to the party in question then one should feel remorse to inspire himself to at least pray on their behalf. Chana was just praying for a child after the embarrassment of many years of being childless, but when she realized her prayers and the answer to her prayers was what incited the rebellion of Korach and his followers which resulted in their loss in their share in The World To Come she felt compelled to get them out of the rut they were in, even though they chose, albeit mistakenly, to put themselves into it, and not get themselves out of, that rut.

This is the extent of responsibility one should have for his or her actions and the care for his or her fellow Jew.

Bihaaloscha – Artists and Kings

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One of our fundamental beliefs of trust in Hashem is that we are expected to go through the motions of putting in our proper effort, but Hashem ultimately produces the results. This cannot be more evidently expressed than by the making of the menorah which is discussed in the beginning of this week’s Torah portion of Bihaaloscha. “Now this is how the menorah was made: it was hammered work of gold, hammered from base to petal. According to the pattern that Hashem had shown Moshe, so was the menorah made” (Bamidbar 9:4).

The Medrish Rabba relates in the name of Levi the son of Rebbe [Yehuda Hanasi] “…that a pure menorah came down from Heaven. For Hashem said to Moshe, ‘And you shall make a menorah out of pure gold’ (Shemos 25:31). [Moshe] asked, how do we make it? [Hashem] responded, you shall make it hammered [out of one piece]. Nevertheless, it was difficult for Moshe and he went down, and he forgot how to make it. He went up and said, my Master how do I make it? [Hashem] responded, you shall make it hammered [out of one piece]. Nevertheless, it was difficult for Moshe and he came back down, and he forgot. He went back up and said, my Master I forgot it. [Hashem] showed [the menorah] to Moshe and still it was too difficult for him. [Hashem] said to [Moshe], see and do, and He showed him a menorah made out of fire and showed him how it was made. Nevertheless, it was too difficult for Moshe. Hashem said to him, go to Betzalel and he will make it. [Moshe] told Betzalel and he immediately made it. [Moshe] started wondering why he was shown many times how to make it and he still couldn’t figure it out but Betzalel who never saw how to make it, still made it out of his own knowledge. [Moshe answered himself] that Betzalel was standing in the “shade of G-D” when Hashem showed me how to make it. Therefore, when the Holy Temple was destroyed, they hid the menorah. This was one of the  five things hidden, (a) the ark, (b) the menorah, (c) the fire [that came down from Heaven to lick up what was sacrificed on the alter], (d) Divine Providence (i.e. prophecy), (e.) and the keruvim [that were on top of the ark.] And when Hashem will return in His mercy and rebuild the Beis Hamikdash with its sanctuary, He will bring them back to their place in order to rejoice in Yerushalayim as it says, ‘Desert and wasteland shall rejoice over them, and the plain shall rejoice and shall blossom like a rose. It shall blossom and rejoice’ (Yeshayahu 35:1, 2).” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

The Rada”l perceptively points out that the reason it was difficult for Moshe to make it was in order to hint to us that even complete preparation from any person to place a place where one can instate upon it The Light of Heaven is not within the power of a complete person to perform by himself, as it says, if not for Hashem helping him etc. and this is why it was made by Betzalel who was given Divine intellect from on high to do all the work and not from his heart.
The Rada”l is clearly stating that Hashem purposefully had Moshe put in all his effort for naught and then Betzalel easily made the menorah in order to send the message that while it is worthwhile to try, which Moshe did and did not easily give up, however Hashem is the one that produces the results, especially when it comes to holy spiritual matters like building the menorah. Also, to clearly prove the point that only Hashem produces the results, He had Betzalel, who was not directly shown how to make the menorah, orchestrate making it.

The Maharz”u seems to have a different understanding of why Betzalel was able to make the menorah so easily but Moshe had a lot of difficulty. However, when scrutinizing this commentary one will see it is really the same theme as the Rada”l. The Maharz”u is very much bothered by  why Betzalel was referred to as standing in the “shade of G-D,” for in fact Moshe was in the “shade of G-D” on the mountain with Hashem and still didn’t know; so how did Betzalel know? Is it possible that he was more in the “shade of G-D” than Moshe who got closer than anyone else on the mountain? The Maharz”u answers that maybe when it says that Betzalel was in the “shade of G-D” it hints to a quality on a level in the matter of working on making the utensils of the mishkan. Betzalel had something more than Moshe had, for he was an artist (or architect) and it’s important to have in mind that Moshe was the king and he did not do anything by himself; rather all actions were done upon his command and direction. This was clearly indicated by all the work that Betzalel and the sages did, and also by the menorah. Nevertheless, the credit went to Moshe for building the mishkan, its utensils, including the menorah, as it says, “And the mishkan of Hashem that Moshe made in the desert.”
Moshe had reached the 49th level of wisdom, one notch below the perfection of all wisdom. He was certainly physically fit enough to make anything, for he assembled the mishkan all by himself, and he even knew how to do hands-on work, because he used to help his fellow Jews in the slave pits of Egypt to lighten their burden. Even though now he is king and almost all the jobs are done for him, it does not seem from the medrish that it was beneath his dignity to make the menorah; on the contrary he tried and failed four time! So, with all his knowledge and worldly experience, why did he fail?

The Maharz”u says it was because he was not an artist like Betzalel and he had plenty of responsibilities because he was the king and he would not have the time to figure out how to be an artist or architect. For Betzalel, it was natural and easy for him to make the menorah because Hashem gave him that artistic gift, to be good at working with his hands;, that was his purpose in life; he used it to the best of his ability. Moshe’s purpose was to be king, the authority over everyone else; so as much as he tried, he just didn’t have the feel of how to make the menorah since he wasn’t naturally an artist or architect. No matter how much wisdom and intellect Hashem granted Moshe He still didn’t give him the knack to sculpt things. Being artistic and handy just wasn’t Moshe’s purpose in life, so Hashem didn’t grant him that ability.

Moshe thought that with all his wisdom he might be able to figure it out since Hashem did command him to make it. So he put in all his efforts to try and not give up so easily, but it was not with in his natural talents to accomplish making the menorah. So ultimately, Moshe had to give it over to Betzalel and direct him to make the menorah since Hashem did grant Betzalel the talents to make it.

This too shows that we put in the efforts but ultimately Hashem causes the results to happen.

Naso – A Recharge of Torah Fundamentals


At the end of this week’s Torah portion of Naso the head of each tribe brought the same package of offerings for the dedication of the Mishkan. This wasn’t just a sacrifice of animals and incense, there was a much deeper meaning behind the specific way each part was given.
The Medrish Rabba (Bamidbar 14:22) goes into great detail about what each part of the sacrifice symbolized. For example, “One spoon (handful) [weighing] ten [shekels] of gold filled with incense” (Bamdibar 7:14). “One spoonful” or really a handful symbolized that out of everyone Hashem only chose the Jewish People as it says, “My dove, my perfect one, is but one; she is one to her mother, she is the pure one of she who bore her” (Shir Hashirim 6:9). For this reason, they are most praiseworthy than all the other nations as it writes there, “Daughters saw her and praised her, queens and concubines, and they lauded her” (Shir Hashirim 6:9), this refers to the other nations of the world [praising the Jews]. Why did Hashem choose them from all the other nations? Because all the other nations invalidated the Torah and did not want to accept it and did not choose in Hashem and His Torah which is five books that are represented by the five fingers of a hand. And [The Jews] accepted the Ten Commandments at Sinai that is what “One spoon (handful) [weighing] ten [shekels] of gold” symbolizes.
Another part of the offering was, “And for the peace offering: two oxen” (Bamidbar 7:17). This symbolizes that Hashem gave the Jewish people two Torahs, one written and one oral. He gave the Written Torah which has in it 613 mitzvos in order to fill them with mitzvos and merits as it says, “He Hashem desires [this] for His righteousness’ sake; He magnifies the Torah and strengthens it” (Yeshayahu 42:21). He gave them the Oral Torah to be more adept in it than all the other nations, and for this reason He did not give it to them written down; so that the rest of the world would not forge it, just as they did with the written Torah.”

The Anaf Yosef gives an incredible insight into why Hashem gave us so many mitzvos in the written Torah in order to fill us with mitzvos and merits. As Chaza”l say in a number of places, “Hashem wanted to bring merit to the Jews etc. as it says ‘He Hashem desires [this] for His righteousness’ sake’. The intent in this is because not everyone thinks alike rather each person might have more of an inkling for a specific mitzva over all the other mitzvos, and if there were only a few mitzvos then not every person would merit those mitzvos. Therefore, [Hashem gave us 613 mitzvos] out of the kindness of Hashem, in order to give merit and bring much righteousness to the Jews by fulfilling Torah and mitzvos in order so that there won’t be a Jew who won’t have a drive for even one mitzva of the 613 mitzvos, to try to fulfill it properly in order to merit a life in the World to Come. For even the empty ones of the Jewish people are full of mitzvos like a pomegranate. This is what the Rambam meant in his commentary on the Mishna that one of our main beliefs in Torah is that when a person fulfills a specific mitzva of the 613 mitzvos in order and properly, and he does not include in it any intent at all from the outside world, rather he does for Hashem’s sake out of love he merits a life in the World to Come.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

G-D forbid to say that we don’t have to keep all the mitzvos! The Torah is the blueprint of creation and the handbook for mankind. It was given to us for our own sake and for the sake of the upkeep of the entire world. However, Hashem created each person in his and her own unique way, with unique tendencies, interests, and motivations. Some people like music, others athletics, some like dissecting, others are more into deep-thinking etc. Every single person has their own unique drives and talents. Hashem specifically made each person in this fashion in order to have the ability to excel and become experts at what they are inclined towards.

With that in mind, of course Hashem expects us to fulfill the entire Torah to the best of our ability; however, He gives us the opportunity to become an expert and excel in the mitzva one is most naturally inclined to do. For example, if a person likes dissecting, he might want to become  a shochet.

Hashem specifically made so many varieties of mitzvos, some that are easier than others, some that come more naturally than others, that even one who is not Torah observant might still be filled with mitzvos. For example, many people love doing acts of kindness, and chesed is a positive mitzva. Or most people don’t like eating bugs and rodents, so by staying away from eating them then you are not transgressing negative mitzvos. How easy is that!

But to easily ensure a share in the World to Come one just has to put his mind into what he knows how to do best, his favorite mitzva; become an expert at it and do it with all the right intentions, for the sake of Hashem out of pure love and you are guaranteed a share in Heaven.

It’s as easy as that! You just have to put your mind and heart into it.

Bamidbar – Why Moshe Rabbeinu Was So Special

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The Book of Bamidbar begins: “And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert, in the Tent of Meeting on the first day of the second month, in the second year after the exodus from the land of Egypt, saying” (Bamidbar 1:1). There is a very concise but telling Medrish in the beginning of this week’s Torah portion of Bamidbar. “Another interpretation, ‘And Hashem spoke to Moshe,’ It’s a praise for Moshe that 600,000 [Men] were standing [at Mount Sinai] and the Kohanim, and Leviim, and Elders were standing there, and from all of them He didn’t speak to besides Moshe” (Bamidbar Rabba 1:6).

The Etz Yosef explains why the Medrish points out that Moshe is praised here for it is because the pasuk writes ‘in the Desert of Sinai’ where all the Jews were standing nevertheless [Hashem] spoke only with him, and this is his praiseworthiness and his praise, that he was chosen from everyone else because of the level he was on. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

The Maharz”u  points out that by the 600,000 men it just states “standing,” meaning from a distance but by the Kohanim, Leviim, and Elders the medrish says “standing there,” indicating that they were standing close to Moshe and around the Mishkan, and yet Moshe was the only one spoken to by Hashem.
The Maharz”u also references the first Medrish Rabba in the beginning of the Book of Vayikra, which goes into more detail of why the fact that Hashem only spoke directly with Moshe Rabbeinu was such great praise: “Rebbe Tanchum the son of Chanilai said that it is the nature in this world that a package which is hard for one to carry, is easier for two to carry. If two can’t carry it than four probably can. Does it make sense then that a package which is hard for 600,000 is easy for one? All the Jews were standing by Har Sinai and saying, ‘if we continue to hear [the voice of the Lord, our God, anymore, we will die] (Devarim 5:22). Moshe heard the voice of speech Itself and lived. Proof that this is so, for from everyone [Hashem] only called on Moshe, that is why it says, ‘And He called unto Moshe’” (Vayikra Rabba 1:1).

The Etz Yosef explains the greatness of Moshe Rabbeinu, that the intent of the medrish is to logically deduce that the coming together of those of perfection should add to the strength of their perfection, amounting to more than what they originally had. Therefore since there were 600,000 together at Har Sinai there should have been a greater amount of perfection to prepare themselves to accept the G-Dly influence there. But because they said, “‘if we continue to hear etc.” it seems the power of all of them together wasn’t enough to be able to hear the “voice” of Hashem, yet Moshe Rabbeinu had the strength by himself, more than all of them put together. (Click Here for Hebrew text.)
Granted this was a unique feat, but why did the medrish feel it was worthwhile to emphasize and praise? If you want to praise Moshe isn’t it better to praise him for being the humblest person ever, or the most G-D fearing, as we see that he told the Jewish people at the end of his life that Hashem only asks of them to fear Him. What does only ask of them mean? Fearing Hashem isn’t so easy! But Chaza”l say that for Moshe Rabbeinu it was. Or maybe the care and love Moshe had for each individual should have been worthwhile to emphasize and praise, so what is the praise here?

However, it would seem that the Medrish is alluding to something that is mentioned in the beginning of the first chapter of Mesillas Yesharim, “The foundation of piety and the root of perfect service [of G-d] is for a man to clarify and come to realize as truth what is his obligation in his world and to what he needs to direct his gaze and his aspiration in all that he toils all the days of his life. Behold, what our sages, of blessed memory, have taught us is that man was created solely to delight in G-d and to derive pleasure in the radiance of the Shechina (Divine Presence). For this is the true delight and the greatest pleasure that can possibly exist. The place of this pleasure is, in truth, in Olam Haba (the World to Come). For it was created expressly for this purpose.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

It is true that Olam Haba is ultimately the place where one will get the full delight in G-D and derive the most complete radiance from His Shechina. However Moshe Rabbeinu got closer than anyone else in this world before he went to Olam Haba and for that reason, that he was able to fulfill the ultimate purpose and goal in existence better than anyone else, he deserved specifically that praise the medrish is emphasizing.

Behar/Bechukosai – The End Does Not Justify the Means


The Chofetz Chaim in his Sefer Shmiras Halashon goes parsha by parsha enumerating the many episodes of unfortunate lashon hara and the prohibitions that are listed in the Torah on this subject. In the first portion of this week’s double portion of Behar and Bechukosai, the conclusion of the Book of Vayikra, the Torah states, “And you shall not wrong, one man his fellow Jew, and you shall fear your G-D, for I am the Lord, your G-D” (Vayikra 25:17). The Chofetz Chaim explains that “here the Torah warns us about onaas devarim, wronging verbally, meaning a person should not provoke his fellow Jew with words, and it says in the gemara, Bava Metzia 58b, that wronging verbally is worse than wronging monetarily, for one is done with his body and the other is done with his money, one can be returned and the other cannot be returned. It says there, Bava Metzia 59a, that all the gates in Heaven are closed except for the gate of the wronged, in order to pay back the wrongdoer. Onaas devarim is also considered a subcategory of lashon hara as we find in Yoma 44a” (Shmiras Halashon, volume 2, chapter 17). (Click here for Hebrew text.)

Rashi
comments on this pasuk, ולא תונו איש את עמיתו YOU SHALL NOT THEREFORE BE EXTORTIONATE TO ONE ANOTHER — Here Scripture warns against vexing by words (wounding a person’s feelings) — that one should not annoy his fellowman, nor give him an advice which is unfitted for him but is in accordance with the plan and the advantage of the adviser. But lest you should say, “Who knows whether I had any intention to do him evil?” Scripture therefore states: “but you shalt fear your G-D”! — He Who knows men’s thoughts, He knows it! In all cases where it is a matter of conscience (more lit., a matter handed over to the heart), when no one knows the truth except the one who has the thought in his heart, Scripture always states: “but be afraid of your G-D”! (Sifra, Behar, Chapter 4 1-2; Bava Metzia 58b; cf. also Rashi on Leviticus 19:14.)

The Sifra, or Toras Kohanim that Rashi is quoting, lists a number of examples of this prohibition:

  1. If a person is a baal-teshuva, penitent, don’t tell him, ‘Do you remember what you used to do…’
  2. If he is a son of a convert, don’t say, ‘I remember how your family used to act…’
  3. If a person is sick, suffering, or buried his children, don’t tell him what Iyov’s friends told him, ‘Isn’t your fear your foolishness, your hope and innocent ways, please remember who is cleanly lost and where did the straight people be annihilated.’
  4. If you see donkey drivers asking for grain or for wine don’t tell them to go to a certain person who never sold grain or wine in his life.
  5. Rebbe Yehuda says that one should not check into an item and ask for a price without any intent on buying it.

Rabbeinu Bachye shares a reason for the gemara in Bava Metzia 59a which says, ”Rav Ḥisda says: All the gates of Heaven are apt to be locked, except for the gates of prayer for victims of verbal mistreatment, as it is stated: ‘And behold, the Lord stood upon a wall built with a plumb line, and a plumb line in His hand’ (Amos 7:7).” The Reason is because the one who is verbally wronged is very much pained, and his mind is weakened, and his heart is humbled over his suffering, and he prays from out of his worrisome heart with intent and is heard. If the [speaker] would say ‘Who knows if I had bad intention’ therefore the pasuk concludes, “and you shall fear your G-D.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
People sin for various reason but don’t deny afterward that no one knows what happened; so what’s the big deal? First of all, why would a person think that remorse for a sin is dependent on who saw it? Secondly, would a person who sins normally deny his folly towards Hashem once he realizes his mistake if he is a G-D fearing Jew? So why is this case any different? Does this person who speaks verbal abuse have to be a denier of Hashem to the point that the Torah has to say, “and you shall fear your G-D?” This expression is not found in too many places. It doesn’t say anywhere that when a person does a sin in private, he should fear Hashem! What is the emphasis here?!

However it would seem based on this Rabbeinu Bachye that this person actually might think he has an excuse to say to himself ‘Who knows if I had bad intention’ because look at the results that he produced by totally insulting and humiliating his fellow Jew. The victim was able to reach such great heights in prayer that he has the ability to be answered whereas others are not so readily answered. The perpetrator caused the victim to reach such great heights of intent in prayer that he might be delusional to think that in fact he did a mitzvah by helping another to come so close to Hashem, to the point that he might tell himself, “who knows if I had bad intentions”. That is why the pasuk concludes, “and you shall fear your G-d,” so one should not come to think that the end justifies the means.

Emor – Just One Shabbos


The Torah, in this week’s portion of Emor, requires a newborn animal set aside to be an offering to be 8 days old before it is allowed to be sacrificed, as it says: “When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall remain under its mother for seven days, and from the eighth day onwards, it shall be accepted as a sacrifice for a fire offering to the Lord” (Vayikra 22:27).


The Medrish Rabba brings a parable as to why one must wait 7 days before bringing a newborn animal as a sacrifice which, it says, is also the reason why the bris milah is on the 8th day. “‘It shall remain under its mother for seven days.’ Rebbe Yehoshua of Sechnin said in the name of Rebbe Levi, a parable to a king who entered one of his provinces and decreed and said, ‘Which ever citizen here who would like to see my face must first see the face of the matron.’ So to, Hashem said, ‘You shall not bring before me an offering until Shabbos has passed, for there isn’t 7 days without Shabbos, and there isn’t a bris milah without a Shabbos, therefore the pasuk continues,‘and from the eighth day onwards’” (Vayikra Rabba 27:10).

The Yefeh Toar observes that the reason why Shabbos is compared to a matron is because Shabbos is referred to as the Shabbos Queen. The lesson learned from this comparison is that Shabbos is a testimony to the fact that G-D created the world, something from nothing, and that Hashem watches over and is involved in His lower species. This belief must come before everything. Therefore, those that bring an offering to burn before The Great Hashem without belief in the nuance of the world and Hashem’s constant involvement has an untruthful belief. For this reason, one Shabbos should pass before the mitzvah of bringing an offering and the mitzvah of bris milah. (Click here for Hebrew text.)


What kind of a person is this medrish referring to? If it is someone who does not have any belief at all then why is he bringing a sacrifice or giving his son a bris? Even if he is just doing what his family does because that is the Jewish thing to do, then what does one Shabbos do for him? He has no clue how or why to keep Shabbos properly, so one Shabbos passing won’t make him a believer? Yet, if this is referring to someone who is already a believer in Hashem and he is bringing a peace offering, burnt offering, or even a sin offering for accidentally sinning, then he is already a believer and he even has observed many Shabbosim until now; so what does this add? It can’t be for the sake of the animal or baby’s belief who were just born because they don’t have the intellectual capacity to think in these terms?!

It must be referring to a believer who until now, if you would ask him, of course he would say that Hashem created the world from nothing and has, is, and always will be consistently involved in its existence and in minor and minute details that exist in what He created. However, the experience of observing a Shabbos reinforces this belief before such a momentous event as a father connecting his son to the Jewish covenant with Hashem or a person bringing an offering on the altar of Hashem to more closely connect or reconnect with Him for whatever reason he or she is bringing the offering. This could be one of the reasons why we have a shalom zachor the first Shabbos after a baby boy is born, to acknowledge and reinforce this belief in Hashem, (see Sefer Taamei HaMinhagim: Inyanei Milah).

 Without the experience or observance of the first Shabbos when the baby boy or animal is born then whatever belief, as strong as it was, won’t be the same and in fact it’s as if the previous belief is nothing.  

There are infinite levels of belief in Hashem and all the facets of His involvement in this world. These beliefs must be constantly reinforced but there are specific auspicious times like when bringing an offering or bris milah where one is creating a special connection with Hashem so at these times Hashem requires one to experience a Shabbos in order to create a deeper impression of belief in preparation to connect with Hashem.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder

Vayikra 22:27).

The Medrish Rabba brings a parable as to why one must wait 7 days before bringing a newborn animal as a sacrifice which, it says, is also the reason why the bris milah is on the 8th day. “‘It shall remain under its mother for seven days.’ Rebbe Yehoshua of Sechnin said in the name of Rebbe Levi, a parable to a king who entered one of his provinces and decreed and said, ‘Which ever citizen here who would like to see my face must first see the face of the matron.’ So to, Hashem said, ‘You shall not bring before me an offering until Shabbos has passed, for there isn’t 7 days without Shabbos, and there isn’t a bris milah without a Shabbos, therefore the pasuk continues,‘and from the eighth day onwards’” (Vayikra Rabba 27:10).

The Yefeh Toar observes that the reason why Shabbos is compared to a matron is because Shabbos is referred to as the Shabbos Queen. The lesson learned from this comparison is that Shabbos is a testimony to the fact that G-D created the world, something from nothing, and that Hashem watches over and is involved in His lower species. This belief must come before everything. Therefore, those that bring an offering to burn before The Great Hashem without belief in the nuance of the world and Hashem’s constant involvement has an untruthful belief. For this reason, one Shabbos should pass before the mitzvah of bringing an offering and the mitzvah of bris milah. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
What kind of a person is this medrish referring to? If it is someone who does not have any belief at all then why is he bringing a sacrifice or giving his son a bris? Even if he is just doing what his family does, because that is the Jewish thing to do, then what does one Shabbos do for him? He has no clue how or why to keep Shabbos properly, so one Shabbos passing won’t make him a believer? Yet, if this is referring to someone who is already a believer in Hashem and he is bringing a peace offering, burnt offering, or even a sin offering for accidentally sinning, then he is already a believer and he even has observed many Shabbosim until now; so what does this add? It can’t be for the sake of the animal or baby’s belief who were just born because they don’t have the intellectual capacity to think in these terms?!

It must be referring to a believer who until now, if you would ask him, of course he would say that Hashem created the world from nothing and has, is, and always will be consistently involved in it’s existence and in minor and minute details that exist in what He created. However, the experience of observing a Shabbos reinforces this belief before such a momentous event as a father connecting his son to the Jewish covenant with Hashem or a person bringing an offering  on the alter of Hashem to more closely connect or reconnect with Him for whatever reason he or she  is bringing the offering. This could be one of the reasons why we have a shalom zachor the first Shabbos after a baby boy is born, to acknowledge and reinforce this belief in Hashem, (see Sefer Taamei HaMinhagim: Inyanei Milah).

 Without the experience or observance of the first Shabbos when the baby boy or animal is born then whatever belief, as strong as it was, won’t be the same and in fact it’s as if the previous belief is nothing.  

There are infinite levels of belief in Hashem and all the facets of His involvement in this world. These beliefs must be constantly reinforced but there are specific auspicious times like when bringing an offering or bris milah where one is creating a special connection with Hashem so at these times Hashem requires one to experience a Shabbos in order to create a deeper impression of belief in preparation to connect with Hashem.

Acharei Mos Kedoshim-Evolution of Atheism


We find a cause for the development of The Haskala, The Enlightenment, along with the Atheist movement, in the second portion of this week’s double parshios of Acharei Mos and Kedoshim. The Torah states, “You shall observe My statutes: You shall not crossbreed your livestock with different species. You shall not sow your field with a mixture of seeds, and a garment which has a mixture of shaatnez shall not come upon you” (Vayikra 19:19).

This pasuk discusses the prohibition of kilayim, forbidden mixtures. Rabbeinu Bachye shares a reason for these prohibitions: “According to the simple understanding the reason for the prohibition of forbidden mixtures is because all the things created in this world whether animal or vegetation has a power source or mazal (fortune) connected on high, and each thing was created in its own species, for this, The Mighty King made a foundation for them in the beginning of creation, so that each one would have their own unique species. So, someone who mixes, or grafts two species together changes and weakens the acts of creation which the Torah writes about them, ‘according to their species’ (Breishis 1:12, 21, 25), and he does the opposite of Hashem who wants to differentiate between each species. It is as if this person makes himself appear that he thinks what The Holy One Blessed Be He has created in this world isn’t enough and he wants to outsmart and add more species, new ones, within what the Eternal One has created. The prohibition of plowing an ox and donkey is for the same reason because it is the custom of farmers after plowing to bring the yoke [with the two animals] into one barn and it would lead into crossbreeding and giving birth to strange breeds resulting in the weakening of creation.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Tangelos, a mix of a tangerine and grapefruit, might lead to a juicier fruit, and the mule, which is the crossbreed of a horse and a donkey, results in a stronger animal. Yet while a mule, might have advantages, they are not able to reproduce on their own, and tangelos are a juicier fruit, yet they are self-sterile, hence they really are weakening the essence of creation; and by dabbling in this field one might create more harm than good. However, scientists who experiment in these sorts of things are trying to improve the world and make things more productive and better; so knowing what they are doing they obviously think the positive advantages outweigh the negative. If so, then what’s really the problem?
Furthermore, later in the perek, in pasuk 27 the Torah writes, “You shall not round off the corner of your head, and you shall not destroy the edge of your beard.” Rabbeinu Bachye explains that the reason behind destroying a beard from its roots is prohibited is along the same lines as forbidden mixtures. “According to the simple reasoning the reason for the prohibition is in order not to quash the sign that The Holy One Blessed Be He imprinted in the male gender in order to differentiate him from a female. One who does this (i.e., destroys the beard at its roots) is doing the opposite of Hashem, like one who plants forbidden mixtures, and everything that was made in creation, is written by it ‘according to their species.’” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
What could be wrong with a man destroying his beard? What is wrong with social justice and equality, or gender equality?

We see from here that Hashem had a reason for creating differences in the world and unique species which cannot be combined or blurred. But the real issue is the attitude that one can outsmart Hashem. ‘I can think of an idea, scientifically and morally, that Hashem didn’t come up with, and it will be bigger and better than how things were originally designed. And who cares about the side effects or drawbacks; those are minor and relatively non-existent or important.’

What people don’t realize is that there is nothing new under the sun. Hashem created the ability and potential for all these new species to be created and advancements to occur. He gave us the free will to choose to use our knowledge for the betterment or the destruction of the world, and the moral fabric of society at large. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 56b even says that non-Jews also have the prohibition of forbidden mixtures in the Noahide laws. It is within our power and decision making to use the tools and brains that Hashem bestowed in us to realize the gifts Hashem provides and to use them appropriately.

However, as we have seen with the advent of the industrial revolution and the advancement of technology, it is very easy to think we can “play god” or invent things which were thought to be impossible. Getting caught up in human advancement and not realizing the source for the gift of these abilities which would lead one to believe there is a moral fabric of how to use all the ingredients around them in this world, is what leads one to conclude he is an atheist. He thinks he just outsmarted G-D so G-D must not exist.

For this reason, Hashem created the laws of forbidden mixtures and the prohibition of uprooting the hair follicles of a beard. There are Higher moral standards so don’t mix them up!

Tazria and Metzora – Combat Weapons Against Sin

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The spiritual ailment of tzaraas is the main focus of the double portion of Tazria and Metzora. This punishment is normally associated with the sin of lashon hara, slander. The Medrish Rabba in parshas Metzora shares a deterrent from speaking lashon hara, when it says that there are 5 times the word “Torah” was written in connection with tzaraas to teach us that anyone who speaks lashon hara transgresses the five books of the Torah and therefore Moshe warned the Jews, “This will be the Torah (law) of the metzora.” The Maharz”u quoting the Ba”al Akeida points out that in each of the Five books of the Torah, there are discussed episodes of lashon hara, or the transgression itself of lashon hara. We see from this how impactful the sin of lashon hara is through out the Torah, and the grave ramifications of transgressing such a sin, which is equivalent to transgressing the entire Torah; and who would wish to do such a thing G-D forbid (Vayikra Rabba 16:6).

However, lashon hara is not the only sin which is punished with tzaraas. The Medrish Rabba lists and proves that there are in fact 10 sins punished with tzaraas: (1) Idolatry, (2) incest (3) murder, (4) chilul Hashem, (5) cursing Hashem, (6) stealing from the public, (7) stealing honor from someone which is not yours, (8) haughtiness, (9) lashon hara, and (10) ayin hara, the evil eye, meaning not sharing anything with others (Vayikra Rabba 17:3).
The Medrish Tanchuma in parshas Tazria makes a very interesting observation which results in another two deterrents of sin which not only apply to lashon hara specifically or this list of ten sins in general, but really for any sin. “Another interpretation of ‘A person who has on the skin of his flesh’. Why didn’t it say, ‘Speak to the children of Israel” as it writes by all the other portions, instead it wrote ‘a person’? This refers to what the pasuk says, ‘For You are not a God Who desires wickedness; evil does not abide with You.’ (Tehillim 5:5). Because the pasuk states, [I] say, ‘My counsel shall stand, and all My desire I will do.’ (Yeshayahu 46:10). Whoever hears this pasuk might say, maybe there is a distortion of justice in Heaven. Rebbe Tanchuma said, what does ‘and all My desire I will do’ mean? He does not desire to castigate any creature, as it says ‘For I do not desire the death of him who dies’ (Yechezkel 18:32). This means, You are not a G-D who desires wickedness. (The Etz Yosef explains that since Hashem does not desire wickedness therefore, He did not mention “B’nei Yisrael,” rather “a person” because He did not want to associate them with bad.) What does ‘evil does not abide with You’ mean? Rebbe Yochanan said that King David said to Hashem, ‘Master Of The World if you seek to exonerate your creatures who is stopping You, as it says ‘Inasmuch as the King’s word is the rule, and who will say to Him, “What are You doing?”’ (Koheles 8:4)? Who is greater than You? It is the custom in the world that a governor who sits in judgement and wants to sentence innocence or guilt, he is afraid of those higher than him, that they won’t say anything bad about him, if the litigant doesn’t like the sentence he will go to the local senator who is of higher stature and if he doesn’t like that he will go to the prime minister and from there all the way up to the king, each one has a higher status then the next. The king fears no one, and You, The Master Of The World, if You want to exonerate your creatures who do You fear, ‘evil does not abide with You,’ meaning You don’t fear evil, as it says ‘For I was frightened of the wrath and the fury’ (Devarim 9:19)” (Medrish Tanchuma parshas Tazria, paragraph 7).
Hashem didn’t want to associate the state of tzaraas with the Jewish people because it’s a bad thing and He did not want His children to have any connection to it; therefore the Torah writes “a person who has on the skin of his flesh a blemish etc.” Surely Hashem is not playing a game, and making believe Jews cannot get tzaraas, if they do something wrong surely, they deserve to be punished. The Medrish itself in fact says, Hashem would not distort justice! Also, what was King David saying that Hashem has no fear to exonerate everyone? Again, wouldn’t Hashem the All-Powerful and truthful only do what is right? What then is the message of this medrish?

We must say that of course Hashem would never distort justice, but He is distraught when man sins and would rather see him immediately repent or actually avoid sinning to begin with. We see from here how much Hashem feels bad over the punishment of His creatures especially His close children, the Jewish people. To the point that Hashem did not even want to reference Bnei Yisrael with receiving tzaraas.

Realizing and imbibing into ourselves the “pain” Hashem feels when being forced to punish His children when we make mistakes should be an impetus to avoid doing wrong, coupled with the belief that Hashem has the ability to do whatever He wants and is always doing what is right and best. This, if on our minds constantly should deter us from sinning.

Shemini – Hard Work and a Thorough Analysis


In this week’s Torah portion of Shemini we find the episode of Nadav and Avihu. By the dedication of the Mishkan they erred while bringing the incense, and Hashem killed them on the spot. “And Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before Hashem foreign fire, which He had not commanded them. And fire went forth from before Hashem and consumed them, and they died before Hashem” (Vayikra 10:1,2).

According to the Sforno their mistake was as follows: “They were under the impression that just as the incense came after the daily offering whereby the Shechina manifested itself, as it says, ‘It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the Ohel Moed before Hashem, where I will meet with you’ (Shemos 29:42), so it would be proper to burn additional incense now that the Divine Glory had been revealed to all the people and the fire had descended, therefore they offered it before Hashem on the inner alter, of which the Torah said, ‘You shall offer no strange incense on it’ (Shemos 30:9). Now even if it was the proper thing to do had they but been commanded to do so, nevertheless they sinned by doing it now, since He had not commanded them, as Chazal said, ‘They decided the halacha in the presence of Moshe their teacher’ (Eruvin 63a).”
The Sforno is of the understanding that Nadav and Avihu’s sin was that they decided a halacha on their own, when they could have asked their teacher, Moshe Rabbeinu, what to do. Even though their thought process made a lot of sense, and it therefore seemed obvious to them that this should be their next move, they still should have consulted with their rebbe who, was not too far away, to be sure they did not overlook something. The next pasuk says that Aharon was silent, and the Sforno observes that he was “comforting himself in the thought that Hashem was sanctified through their death.”

However, at the end of the perek we find that, at first glance, it would seem Aharon himself overlooked something. “And Moshe thoroughly investigated concerning the sin offering he-goat, (The Sforno says, ‘that goat was for an everlasting statute, namely, the goat for Rosh Chodesh, a holy sacrifice for future generation.) and behold, it had been burnt! So, he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s surviving sons, saying, ‘Why did you not eat the sin offering in the holy place? For it is holy of holies, and He has given it to you to gain forgiveness for the sin of the community, (The Sforno points out, ‘although it was given to you, you had no permission to burn it because it was given to you to eat in order to bear the iniquities of the congregation,) to effect their atonement before the Hashem! Behold, its blood was not brought into the Sanctuary within, so you should have surely eaten it within holy [precincts], as I commanded!’ And Aaron spoke to Moshe, ‘But today, did they offer up their sin offering and their burnt offering before Hashem? But [if tragic events] like these had befallen me, and if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have pleased Hashem?’ (The Sforno explains, ‘His reasoning was: if the situation were such that they were sacrificing their obligatory sin offering and their freewill burnt offering, even though these sacrifices are not permanent communal holy offerings, and we were to have eaten the sin offering today while in a state of aninus, mourning, would it have been pleasing in the sight of Hashem that in a state of aninus we should also eat a sacrifice which is obligatory upon all generations? It is well known that if a kohen who is an onen eats an offering with knowledge and intent, it cannot atone, as it says regarding kodshim kalim, the lesser holy, ‘I have not eaten thereof in my mourning’ (Devarim 26:14). Although you commanded us to eat the meal offering which is of transitory sanctity, even in a state of mourning, it does not follow that this ruling also applies in the case of permanent sacrifices.) Moshe heard [this], and it pleased him.” (Which the Sforno says means, ‘He rejoiced in the good reasoning of his brother and his sons who understood and taught, [decided the law,] so well) (Vayikra 10:16-20). (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Aharon and his sons were supposed to have eaten their portion of the Rosh Chodesh goat-offering along with the portions of other sacrifices they had brought on the day Nadav and Avihu died, and they were in mourning. Yet they chose to burn the meat of the Rosh Chodesh offering as a mourner would normally do, because they figured that only the special offerings brought specifically for the dedication of the Mishkan were allowed to be eaten in a state of mourning, while the regular offerings that would be continued for generations were not allowed to be eaten in a state of mourning, as halacha normally would dictate.

If Aharon and his sons had just seen the sudden death by Heaven of their sons and brothers for not first consulting with Moshe Rabbeinu, and the Torah even attests that Aharon understood and accepted what happened, why then did they not first consult with Moshe Rabbeinu before wasting and burning the holy meat they were supposed to eat? What is even more perplexing is that Moshe Rabbeinu was happy over Aharon’s response as to why he did what he did; were they not in the same position as Nadav and Avihu? What changed?
If we analyze each situation carefully according to the Sforno we will find that the difference between Nadav and Avihua and Aharon and the rest of his sons was the approach they took to the situation. Nadav and Avihu thought that they had a good idea which made sense, and they had only positive intent. But they did not think it through, to the very last possibility, and therefore they were faulted for acting too quickly when they should have first asked the rabbi if what they were doing was correct. Aharon and the rest of his sons, on the other hand, went through every step of the situation and completely analyzed the issue until they knew that they were making the correct choice, and were able to defend their actions accordingly.

We learn from here no matter how much we think we make sense of something, especially in halacha, we should first consult with higher authorities before acting on impulse, unless we have thoroughly analyzed the matter and know for sure that what we are doing is without a doubt correct. Yet we should be very wary of relying on our own understanding of a situation unless we are absolutely confident and know we aren’t fooling ourselves, which is not so easy to figure out. So better to err on the side of caution.

Tzav – For the Honor of the Children

This Dvar Torah is dedicated in memory of my Rosh HaYeshiva, Moreinu viRabbeinu HaRav Alter Chanoch Henoch ben Chaim Dovid Leibowitz ztzk”l, Rosh Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, upon his yahretzeit which was Yud Nissan.

Only because of Moshe Rabbeinu’s prayer was Hashem willing to send a message to Aharon in the beginning of this week’s Torah portion of Tzav. If not for this prayer, Hashem would not want anything to do with Aharon Kohen Gadol after his involvement with the sin of the Golden Calf.
In fact, the Rosh summarizing a Medrish Rabba (Vayikra 7:1) in the beginning of this week’s parsha of Tzav which asks, “’Why wasn’t the name of Aharon mentioned in the Torah portion of Vayikra? It was because he was reprimanded for the action of the golden calf, only his sons [were mentioned, ‘Bnei Aharon’ or ‘hakohen.’ And the two times (2:3&10) in last week’s parsha that it says Aharon and his sons was only because the Torah had to differentiate between the kohen gadol and the other kohanim so Hashem felt it was not worth using extra ink just to punish Aharon.] Moshe said before Hashem, ‘Master Of The World is a pit ever hated and it’s water pleasant? Didn’t you have mercy on the olive and warned not to cut olive wood for the sake of the oil which is needed for light and meal offerings? So to, the children of Aharon are beloved before you and you don’t have mercy on the honor of their father?’ Only then did The Master acquiesce to the student and said, ‘Command Aharon’ (Vayikra 6:2).’ One can ask, what does hatred towards the father have to do with loving the sons? This can be answered with a parable to a king who had servants and two lads were guardsmen who were handsome and very strong who always walked with him. Their father was a villager. The king said it is better to make the father a knight in order to call the children sons of knights, even though the father was appalling in the king’s eyes. So too, the children of Aharon were beloved by Hashem and in their honor He called to their father and commanded him what He commanded.” (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)
We must put into perspective Aharon’s involvement in the sin of the golden calf. He by no means had any intent of creating an idol or in fact doubted that his brother Moshe would come back. Indeed, he only advised the ringleaders of the rebellion to make the golden calf in order to buy time for Moshe to come back, because they had miscalculated Moshe’s return. Aharon told them to collect gold jewelry from their wives, who he knew would refuse, but he did not realize the men would force it off them. This was after his uncle, Chur, was already killed by the mob trying to calm them down. So, whatever got Hashem upset and therefore decided to not address Aharon in the Torah portion of Vayikra, and only do so after Moshe beseeched Him to do so for his children’s sake, it must have been because of some very slight misjudgment that lead to the whole debacle. Aharon is known to have been one who ran after peace, a rodef shalom; but Hashem judges his righteous strictly, according to their level. This is analogous to a concept the Ramban mentions in the beginning of his sefer about reward and punishment, Sha’ar HaGemul, where he talks about the famous Chaza”l of when Hashem judges the world on Rosh Hashana, those who are righteous go straight to life, those who are wicked go straight to death and those in the middle are held in limbo until Yom Kippur. The Ramban mentions that included in ‘the wicked’ are “those of good deeds who transgress only one sin but are sentenced on Rosh Hashana to death, meaning they will die this coming year or live through some challenging illnesses, a life of suffering and tribulation, which just means he was sentenced to a judgement of a totally wicked person even though he is in fact righteous and deserving of life in the World to Come.” We see that a person can be viewed in “the eyes of Hashem” as being wicked at this moment, even though he is in fact very righteous. For this reason Aharon fell out of favor with Hashem after his involvement with the sin of the golden calf.

But what did it help to ask Hashem to elevate Aharon’s status for the sake of his children, out of respect for them, which really is for Hashem’s honor as well? Isn’t it a game, doesn’t it sound like a lack of truth to promote someone who doesn’t deserve a promotion on his own merits?

However, of course that can’t be true. Hashem is absolutely honest and by definition He is perfectly truthful. Rather it must be that granted on his own personal merits Aharon did not deserve to be addressed at that time, which when thinking about it is a great travesty for him because the Book of Vayikra, the service of the Kohanim in the Mishkan is Aharon’s whole essence. It’s his most important role in life and now Hashem refuses to talk to him about it, only to his children?! However, the very fact that he has children so beloved to Hashem is a merit for his promotion and that is duly justified.

Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally…) this week’s haftorah for Shabbos Hagadol concludes, “that he may turn the heart of the fathers back through the children, and the heart of the children back through their fathers” (Malachi 3:24).