Shavuos – No One Published “Understanding G-D for Dummies”

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בָּר֥וּךְ כְּבֽוֹד־יְהֹוָ֖ה מִמְּקוֹמֽו
 “Blessed is the glory of the Lord from His place” (Yechezkel 3:12). This pasuk is said, at a minimum, 3 times every morning in our davening, as well as being in every Kedusha. What is the meaning behind this pasuk and why does it conclude the haftorah for the first day of Shavuos?

The Haftorah for the first day of Shavuos comes from the first chapter of Yechezkel which discusses the Maaseh Merkava, Hashem’s “Heavenly Chariot,” because the vision that Yechezkel had in his prophecy is similar to what took place when Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Har Sinai. The Mishna in the beginning of the second perek of Chagiga says that one may not expound on this subjectexcept with one individual who is a sage and understands of his own knowledge. The Rambam explains the concept of the Maaseh Merkava as trying to understand in detail the reality of Hashem and His description, as well as angels, the soul,  intellect, and what happens after death. The Bartenura argues and says it refers to using “Hashem’s Crown” through mentioning Hashem’s Holy Names, including how exactly angels are arranged in Heaven, and tapping into Divine Intervention, Ruach HaKodesh. Either way, it is a very deep concept which we will not get into. Then the Haftorah seems to randomly conclude with the pasuk in perek 3 pasuk 12 of Yechezkel:

And a wind lifted me up, and I heard behind me the sound of a great uproar: “Blessed is the glory of the Lord from His place.” יבוַתִּשָּׂאֵ֣נִי ר֔וּחַ וָֽאֶשְׁמַ֣ע אַֽחֲרַ֔י ק֖וֹל רַ֣עַשׁ גָּד֑וֹל בָּר֥וּךְ כְּבֽוֹד־יְהֹוָ֖ה מִמְּקוֹמֽוֹ:

The Gemara in Megilla 31a lists which haftorah we read for each Yom Tov, and does not mention this last pasuk. The earliest known source I was able to find was the Tur Orach Chaim, siman 494, which mentions reciting this last pasuk after reading the first chapter of Yechezkel as the Haftorah. It would seem random to throw in a pasuk, two perakim later, to conclude the Haftorah. What seemingly is the connection?
The Yalkut Shimone  puts the pasuk into context, “Rebbe Pinchas the Kohen, the son of Chama said in the name of Rebbe Reuvain, ‘What does and I heard behind me’ mean? After My friends and I praised Hashem I then heard ministering angels praise and declare, ‘Blessed is the glory of the Lord from His place.’ And it says, ‘When the morning stars sing together, and all the angels of G-D shout’ (Iyov 38:7).”  Though very true that “Then the Ofanim, and the Holy Chayos with great noise raise themselves towards the Seraphim. Facing them they give praise saying ‘Blessed is the glory of Hashem from His place,’” as we say every morning in our davening, as alluded to in this medrish; yet  the Radak says on this pasuk that Yechezkel is foretelling through prophecy an appearance of him being lifted by the wind to go into exile, and when he was lifted by the wind he heard a voice from after the place he had his prophesy and the voice said, “Blessed is the glory of the Lord from His place.” This means to say that when Hashem’s Holy Presence removed itself from His place on top of the covering between the Keruvim because the Jewish people were diminishing His honor when He was amongst them, as a sign of His zealotry. It is as if He added to His honor when removing Himself from them. “Blessed” refers to adding on good and honor… And the great sage, the Rambam, explained “From His place” to mean according to His loftiness and His basic role in reality. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
According to the Radak, Yechezkel was prophesizing about Hashem’s Holy Presence leaving the Beis HaMikdash, which led to the destruction of the First Temple. Granted, the Jews did not deserve Hashem’s Presence amongst them with all the miracles that took place daily in the Beis HaMikdash; but why is it considered an added honor for Hashem by acting with zeal to remove Himself from the Holy of Holies? Two wrongs do not make a right! The ideal place for Hashem’s Holy Presence in this world is the Holy of Holies above the Holy Ark, ideally with Hashem’s children following His commands. Why then did the Radak say that by leaving the Jewish people, because they were diminishing His honor, he was then adding honor to Himself?

In reality, the ideal setting for Hashem’s greatness in this world is to rest amongst His children as He did when He initially gave the Torah to us at Har Sinai with all the lightning, thunder, shofar blasts and legions of angels, and as he continued when they erected the Mishkan and eventually the Beis HaMikdash with the Shechina resting above the Aron Kodesh on top of the Keruvim. However, as the Radak concludes, by quoting the Rambam, ultimately Hashem’s greatness and honor is defined by His loftiness and with respect to His basic role in reality, which is in fact a mystery to us, and we can only conjecture using our finite brains.

For this reason it seems very apropos for the haftorah which discussed the Maaseh Merkavah, such a complex concept, to conclude with this pasuk since it is acknowledging how complex the loftiness and very concept and reality in fact is the Almighty, Blessed Be He, King Of All Kings, Master Of The Universe, Hashem.

It is also very apropos for Shavuos itself, because we must appreciate more and more the profundity, depth, and magnitude, of the gift Hashem gave us. By realizing and gaining a better recognition of who the author of the Torah, the blueprints of creation and guidebook for life, is, then we can better appreciate how important it is to serve Him with every detail and minutia as He intended when giving us the Torah at Har Sinai.

Good Yom tov,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder

Torah Riddles Test #114

  Question: Why does the Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 494:1) and others say you cannot fast on Shavuos a taanis chalom, fast after a bad dream, but can fast on other yom tovim and Shabbos?       

Background:

A.      A taanis chalom is fasted by an individual if he is so unsettled about a dream one has that he feels he must fast as an atonement to relieve his anguish. He is even allowed to do so on Shabbos and Yom Tov, though he has a mitzvah to delight on these days and is forbidden to fast, but in this case fasting is what brings this anguished person to delight so he is permitted to do so.

B.      The Gemara in Pesachim 68b says that everyone agrees that on Shavuos one must dedicate part of the day to “lachem” to oneself, in delighting in the day and not just learning and praying the whole day. Rashi there explains that one should be joyous with food and drink to show how one is satisfied and accepts the day the Torah was given. Even learning Torah the whole day would not suffice.   

                                                                                                                   

Answer: On Shavuos one is obligated to share with others your enjoyment over accepting the Torah which is  clearly seen by having a meal, it is not enough to learn Torah the whole day, or to fast even though they both bring delight for the person.     (See Dirshu Mishna Berura 594:3:11:17.)   

Torah Riddles Test #42

Question: Why does Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach say that we do say Tachanun on the 13th of Sivan even if living outside of Israel even according to the opinion that one does not say Tachanun for six days after Shavuos which was the make up time of when they would bring their Yom Tov offering in the beis hamikdash since not everyone could do it on Shavuos itself?

Background:

A. The Mishna Berura (131:7:36) writes that there are places who have the custom to not say Tachanun all six days after Shavuos since they used to make up the sacrifices of the holiday during those days.

 B. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach holds the count of those days does not start after the second day of Shavuos outside of Israel, rather after the first day which is the sixth of Sivan so there would be no Tachanun until the 12th and they would start back saying it on the 13th.

Answer: The sacrifices were only brought in the Beis Hamikdash in Israel which only keeps one day so that is why we don’t start counting from the day after Shavuos ends outside of Israel. (See Dirshu note 14 in Mishna Berura 494:3:8).

Torah Riddles Test #41

  1. Question: Why doesn’t Tosefes Yom Tov, taking on Yom Tov early in regards to prohibiting yourself from doing melacha before sunset, not contradict the 49 complete days of the Omer but saying kiddush and maariv before nighttime does?

Background:

A. The Mishna Berura (494:1:1) says that maariv should be pushed off to later on the first night of Shavuos until the stars come and it is completely night so that the days of the counting of Omer will be 49 complete days.

B. The Pri Megadim says this applies to saying kiddush also, if one would eat first then Daven maariv in a set minyan or for a woman who is alone and is not davening maariv.

 C. Rav Nosson Karelitz says one can accept upon himself “Tosefes Yom Tov” because that doesn’t take away from the completeness of 49 full days it is just that one cannot do any melacha because he took upon himself Tosefes Yom Tov.

Answer: Davening maariv or saying kiddush is an action which actively shows they are moving on to the next day so if done earlier they are not completing the 49 days of counting. Whereas refraining from doing malacha is passive, all it is taking a vow not to do any work for a certain time period for the sake of honoring the Yom Tov but it does not show that they are ready to move on to the next day. (See footnote 1 and 2 in Dirshu there.)