Support Torah Outreach at Machon Meir! Tax-deductible gifts- for USA: payable to: “American Friends of Machon Meir” For Israel: payable to: “Machon Meir” please mail to: Machon Meir 2 HaMeiri Ave. Jerusalem 91340, Israel If you, or someone you know, would like to receive the parasha by e-mail, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org We’ll be glad to add you to our list! “From the World of Rav Kook” “Materialism creates a rift between objects in the universe, and an opposition between them. The ideal spiritual state knows nothing of this rift; rather, it engenders only unity and togetherness.” (Erpalei Tohar 119) Join our English Dept. live on our website for a vibrant discussion on Halacha each Thursday at 2:25pm www.machonmeir.org.il Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir Message for Today: “As One Man, with One Heart – at the Receiving of the Torah” Only fifty days passed between the Exodus and the Sinai Revelation. We exited a deep pit and came to a high mountain. During those days, as well, we faced great crises. These started with the splitting of the sea and continued with the great resentments and controversies that ensued: “There in the desert, the entire Israelite community began to complain against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by G-d’s hand in Egypt! There at least we could sit with meat and eat our fill of bread! But you had to bring us out to this desert, to kill the entire community by starvation!” (Exodus 16:3) Ultimately, the Israelites “asked whether G-d is in their midst or not” (Exodus 17:7). That weakness made them spiritually lax and unleashed Amalek upon them: “Amalek arrived and attacked Israel there in Rephidim” (verse 8). Our sages say that “Rephidim” was where they “grew lax” [rafu yedeihem]. After these crises and weakness, they repented, as it says, “They departed from Rephidim and arrived in the Sinai Desert, camping in the wilderness. Israel camped opposite the mountain” (Exodus 19:2). Of what did their repentance consist? They united as one man with one heart, as it says, “Israel camped” [singular “vayichan” even though it is referring to the entire People]. A person has many different limbs but all of them belong to one body. He has one heart and it showers life and vitality on all the other parts of the body. In just the same way, even though the Jewish People were divided into tribes, they united as one man and treated Moses and Aaron as their head and heart, who influence the entire nation. This was the precondition for the Sinai Revelation – unity in spirit and deed. Today, the Jewish People have emerged from the two-thousand-year-old pit of exile and established a glorious country. Now, we, too, are facing crises, resentment and controversy in almost every direction. This is all part of the necessary clarification of who we are and what is our essence and purpose in the world. After fifty days we merited the Sinai Revelation before all of Israel, down to the last Jew, amidst unity. So too, with G-d’s help, we shall merit to attain the spiritual level in which the entire Jewish People will be united as one man with one heart. Then we will merit the fulfillment of “our eyes seeing G-d’s return to Zion” (Shemoneh Esreh), and we will speedily merit G-d’s light. And through our meriting all of this, all of mankind, as well, shall find good fortune. As Scripture states, “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L-rd, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). With blessings for a joyous Shavuot, and looking forward to complete salvation, Shabbat Shalom! Write a letter of support to Jonathan Pollard, in jail for 20 years because of his love for the Jewish People and our Land! Address letters to: Jonathan Pollard # 09185-016 FCI Butner Medium Federal Correctional Institution P.O. Box 1000 Butner, NC 27509 (USA) Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El “Study Mussar” Question: Unfortunately, I fall prey to sin all the time. I make good decisions and then I don’t keep to them. I get up and fall and get up and fall until I despair. G-d doesn’t help me. I have evil impulses and they don’t go away. I know that I am asking a question that perhaps has no answer. Yet maybe there’s still a way for me to get out of this bind? Answer: Certainly there’s a way. G-d wouldn’t throw us into a maelstrom and leave us that way, G-d forbid. What happens to you is not exceptional. It happens to every person on earth, since people have passions. Our sages said that a person’s evil impulse overcomes him every day, and becomes stronger. They say that it renews its efforts against him each day and finds new horizons. Without G-d’s help, man couldn’t stand up to his evil impulse. This evil impulse is very strong, and it is hard to beat without allies. Yet G-d, in His kindness, made an alliance with us. He provided us with an ally who would accompany us always, and that is the Torah. As our sages envision G-d saying, “I created the evil impulse, and I created the Torah as its antidote” (Kiddushin 30b). Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto wrote, “If people had a broad, deep awareness of the severity of sin, they would never succumb to it. The evil impulse would then not even come near them, let alone take control” (Derech Etz Chaim, printed at the end of Mesillat Yesharim). Not only would we overcome the evil impulse, but it would go away. We especially must undertake daily study of mussar [Rabbinic moral tracts] regarding character improvement and the fear of G-d, as great luminaries have previously admonished us to do [e.g., Sefer HaYashar (Sha’ar 4); Rabbenu Yona of Gerondi (Sefer HaYira 140; Sha’arei Teshuva 3:3, 3:15)]. Likewise, the Arizal strongly admonished us “to maintain daily study of works of mussar and the fear of G-d. Not a single day should go by without this” (Yesod VeShoresh HaAvodah, Sha’ar HaNitzutz; Be’er Hetev, Orach Chaim 603:1). The great Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Shlomo Luriah [Maharshal] ordered a rebuker to come to him each day for one hour to rebuke and admonish him about his deeds. And when the rebuker was rebuking him, the Maharshal would wrap himself in his tallit and sit down to hear the chastisement in fear and trembling before G-d (Chidah, Shem Gedolim. Entry: “Reshit Chochmah”). The Ba’al Shem Tov ordered his students to study mussar daily, whether a lot or a little, and to cling to good character traits (Tzava’at Rivash). The evil impulse does not entice a person not to study at all. It only entices him not to study anything that might lead him to the fear of G-d, such as Mussar works (Ibid.). The story is told of Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz, one of the first disciples of the Ba’al Shem Tov, who studied the work, “Chovat HaLevavot” a thousand times. Rabbi Nachman of Breslav was an enormously diligent scholar, and among other things, he learned the entire Mussar literature (Shivchei HaRan). The Vilna Gaon, as well, when he came across the book “Mesillat Yesharim” and said, “A great light is going forth to the world,” and he learned the work by heart 101 times. The Vilna Gaon added, “If Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto were still alive, “I would go on foot to study morality and ethics from him.” Obviously, all of this relates both to men and women, to girls and boys (Derashot Ye’arot Dvash, Rabbi Yonatan Eibschitz, Drush 5). Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook even said that everyone needs to write a mussar work appropriate to himself. Obviously, he doesn’t have to invent it entirely out of his own brain. Rather, he can take what he finds in the mussar works that is well-suited to the improvement of his soul, collect and gather it into a little book for himself (from the start of “Mussar Avicha”). Yet mussar study is not something theoretical. Rather, it includes examining oneself through the light of those books, in other words, taking stock of oneself daily. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto wrote: “Surely, most of a man’s life, he thinks about how his livelihood is proceeding. He thinks about his temporal pursuits. Why shouldn’t he devote even a small amount of time each day to this as well, to think about what is really important: Who is he and why has he come to this world? What does the Supreme King of Kings want of him? What will be with him in the end? This is the greatest, strongest cure that one can come up with against the evil impulse. It is easy yet its effect is powerful and potent. A person should stand each day for a short while, free of all other thoughts, to think about what I mentioned” (Derech Etz Chaim). “To what may this be compared? To a businessman whose business pursuits are all flourishing and his income is ever on the rise. This is all well and good, but if he sees that he is losing more and more each day, he would be truly foolish to continue in the same path. He should revamp his business, deciding what to stop selling and what to start selling, etc.” (Sefer Cheshbon HaNefesh, Rabbi Mendel of Satonov). Therefore, in spiritual matters, writes Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto: “I see a need for a person to weigh and consider his ways each day like the wealthy entrepreneurs who constantly plot out their business decisions lest they go awry. They set aside fixed times for this, so that their decisions are not made haphazardly but in a well-organized fashion… As our sages said: “‘The minstrels [moshlim] say: Come to Cheshbon!’ (Numbers 21:27): Those who have control [moshlim] over their evil impulse say, ‘Come! Let us do a calculation [cheshbon] of this world, weighing the loss from a mitzvah against the gain, and the gain from a sin against the loss’” (Bava Batra 78). (Mesillat Yesharim 3) Are you greater than Moses, the man of G-d, master of all prophets and father of all sages? Surely his equal has never arisen in Israel. Yet Rambam says that because Moses did not engage fully in the task of taking stock of himself, he succumbed to anger and said, “Listen you rebels! Shall we produce water for you from this cliff?” (Numbers 20:10). (Shemoneh Perakim, Ch. 4). Some of our sages interpret the incident with the smiting of the rock differently than Rambam. Yet it is surely clear that without our regularly taking an account of ourselves, even the greatest spiritual giant can fail. Our master Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook wrote: “Wickedness in the world finds its abode in man. Daily it grows bolder, sabotaging a person’s ability to raise himself up to goodness. A man’s evil impulse overcomes him every day… A person must confess his sins… When a person never forgets to take stock of himself, he gradually shakes off the evil from himself, before it has a chance by means of its enormous cunning to make it impossible for the person to lift his head. The masters of calculations daily fend off wickedness… positioning themselves for goodness and holiness” (Orot HaKodesh 2:302). The rule is this: One should study mussar each day and take stock of himself each day. One can discern from a person’s behavior and speech, even one steeped in Torah learning, whether or not he studies mussar and takes stock of himself daily. Such a person has a special gentleness and purity. HELP SAVE GUSH KATIF! www.savegushkatif.org : an excellent site for information about Gush Katif and the thousands of Jews living there, and what you can do to help. Visit the site; send a link to everyone you know! Rabbi Elisha Aviner – Education Corner “Shavuot Night and the Day After: An Educational Perspective There is an ancient custom with its source in the Zohar to be awake all of Shavuot Night. This is called “Tikun Leil Shavuot” [the Shavuot Night Corrective]. The content and purpose of this night are well explained in the Zohar: The early saints would not sleep on this night. Rather, they studied Torah. What was its purpose? To prepare the ‘bride’s adornments” – in other words, to prepare adornments for the Torah. Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 494:1), after pointing out that “most learners keep this practice,” mentions an additional rationale: “A straightforward rationale can be assigned: Israel slept the entire night of the Torah’s being given, and G-d had to awaken them, as the Midrash states. We therefore need to rectify this.” The Midrash (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:56) teaches that the Jewish People sank so deep in slumber that “with the arrival of morning” (Exodus 19:16), G-d had to sound “thunder and lightening” (Ibid.) to awaken them. The eternal rectification consisted of our remaining awake all night in order to be ready to receive the Torah. Therefore, Shavuot Night is a special time for Torah learning as a means of clinging to holiness (Shnei Luchot HaBrit). That night, “one should be enthusiastic and very alert, for this time brings us closer to G-d” (Chidah: Lev David). It is right and proper for children and youths as well to keep this practice: to learn Torah joyfully on Shavuot Night. Children should do as much as their strength allows them. Children and youths who keep this practice are worthy of encouragement and praise. Even so, as happens with customs, sometimes everything gets reversed. The means become the end. There are youths who remain awake all night but do not learn Torah. They wander around the streets hither and thither, engaging in mindless chatter and killing time until the arrival of dawn. Then they fall asleep during morning prayers and sleep all day. It is doubtful whether such a recipe has value. To be awake all night without learning Torah does not “prepare adornments for the bride,” and these youths neither “cling to holiness” nor “draw near to G-d.” Better to sleep in one’s bed and gather strength to pray properly and to learn a bit of Torah during Shavuot Day. Therefore, whoever is interested in his sons remaining awake all night has to make sure that they have an organized learning program; a variety of Torah lectures and study partners. If no organized program exists, better that they should participate only in a few Torah lectures at the beginning of the night. Then they should get a good night’s rest. That way, they will be able to fulfill the mitzvah of enjoying Yom Tov. On Shavuot Day, they can participate in some more Torah lectures. On Shavuot Day, an entirely different practice was customary in the Ashkenazic communities of old. Small boys were first introduced into the yoke of Torah learning on Shavuot. This custom is mentioned in “Machzor Vitri,” and in “Rokeach,” by Rabbi Eliezer of Vorms: “It is our ancestral custom to have our small children learn Torah on Shavuot, since the Torah was given on that day.” The children would get up early in the morning and walk to synagogue in an impressive procession. There a blackboard was brought forth, upon which had been written the first four and last four letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the words, “Torah tziva lanu moshe” [Moses commanded the Torah to us]. The rabbi proclaimed letter by letter, and the children repeated it after him. Honey was smeared over the letters, and the children would lick the honey off the letters. Afterwards, a honey cake was brought forth, with the Hebrew words of Isaiah 50:4 and Ezekiel 3:3 recorded on it: “The L-rd G-d has given me the tongue of them that are taught, that I should know how to sustain with words him that is weary”; “He said to me: ‘Son of man, cause your belly to eat, and fill your stomach with this scroll’… Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.” These verses as well the rabbi would read together with the children. Then the children ate the honey cake. “This practice is good for opening the heart. One should not diverge from it” (Rokeach). As Rokeach writes, the sages of Israel related to this custom as a surefire means of “opening the heart” of the children in preparation for introducing them to the yoke of Torah learning. Yet it was also educationally beneficial: 1) The children would have their first contact with Torah learning on Shavuot, the day the Torah was given to the Jewish People. This was intended to link the children to those who received the Torah in every generation. Torah learning is not a means to self-enrichment; it is a way to attach oneself to the Jewish People’s receiving of the Torah. Torah learning is not just an intimate intellectual or spiritual experience, but also gives utterance to our nation’s spirit. 2) Some hold that our sages’ educational methods were harsh. They focused on dry study and endless repetition under threat of the teacher’s staff. That is a mistaken impression! Our sages recognized the value of the educational experience and they incorporated it in their educational framework. A salient example of this is the abovementioned practice of introducing the children to Torah learning on Shavuot. The first encounter with Torah was literally “as sweet as honey.” This was an educationally defining experience. The nature of one’s first encounter with a person, idea or object determines the basic relationship, for better or worse. Our sages therefore sought to surround with sweetness the child’s first encounter with Torah. In that first encounter, the child is incapable of delving deeply into Torah and of identifying that the Torah itself constitutes “honey and milk under the tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). He has no sense of the Torah’s inherent pleasantness. Even so, our sages did not forego the sweet encounter with Torah, and they gave the children real honey so that they would undergo a sweet educational experience. Be sure to catch Rabbi David Samson’s weekly Torah insight on “Israeli Salad” at www.israelnntv.com (produced in cooperation with Machon Meir).
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