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שבת טעם החיים בהר תשע"א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Behar
The Return to Freedom and Holiness
וקדשתם את שנת
החמשים שנה וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל ישביה יובל היא תהיה לכם ושבתם איש אל אחזתו ואיש
אל משפחתו תשבו, you shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom
throughout the land for all its inhabitants; it shall be the Jubilee Year for
you, you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage and you shall return
each man to his family. (Vayikra 25:10)
Writers are always faced with the challenge
of finding a sensational topic in the weekly parshaha to expound upon. This week
is certainly no exception, as the Torah discusses the laws of Shemitah, the
Sabbatical year, and Yovel, the Jubilee, that do not appear to be very relevant
to our daily lives. Nonetheless, a writer must persevere and discover that elusive
word or phrase that will shed light on the topic matter, no matter how abstract
the topic may be. This week I merited noticing the word קדש, holiness, regarding Yovel. It is
interesting that the word קדש only appears regarding Yovel and not regarding Shemitah, the
seventh Sabbatical year. Let us examine Shemitah and Yovel, see how they
contrast, and then discover why Yovel is so important and relevant to our dally
Shemitah in the simple sense is that Jews
living in Eretz Yisroel allow the land to rest, and there are numerous
prohibitions in the Torah regarding working the land during the Shemitah year.
Yovel is similar to Shemitah regarding the prohibitions of working the land.
The main difference between Yovel and Shemitah is that in the Yovel year, all
slaves were freed, and all sales of land were returned to their original owner.
One must wonder, then, why the Yovel year is referred to as קדש, holy, whereas
Shemitah is not deemed to be holy (Halachicly speaking, fruits of Shemitah had
the same sanctity as fruits of Yovel. I am merely addressing the issue of the
regarding Yovel in contrast to Shemitah). In order to answer this question, we
must examine the meaning of holiness and the significance of the number fifty.
קדושה is normally translated
as holiness or sanctity. Regarding the sanctity of the Yovel, it is said
(Vayikra 25:10)וקדשתם את שנת החמשים שנה וקראתם דרור בארץ
לכל ישביה יובל היא תהיה לכם ושבתם איש אל אחזתו ואיש אל משפחתו תשבו, you shall sanctify the fiftieth year and
proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants; it shall be the
Jubilee Year for you, you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage and you
shall return each man to his family. Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch writes that the
concept of דרור,
freedom, is that the object or person returns to its natural state. The manner
in which an object or person returns to its natural state is by having all impediments
towards that transformation removed. Thus, in the Yovel year a Jewish slave is
returned to his family and the land returns to its original owner. We can
extend Rav Hirsch’s explanation to apply to the concept of Yovel being holy.
True holiness, writes the Ibn Ezra (Bamidbar 6:7) is one who is free from his desires.
Consequently, when one returns to his natural state, which is without sin, he
is considered holy. The Sfas Emes asks, why does the Torah state (Ibid ) ושבתם איש אל אחזתו,
you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage? The Torah should have
stated the opposite, that the ancestral heritage is returned to its owner? The
Sfas Emes answers that the Torah is teaching us the essence of Yovel, which is
that each Jew returns to his source. This source is referred to as the World of
Based on the words of Rav Hirsch and the Sfas
Emes, we can better understand why the two unique aspects of Yovel were the
liberation of the slaves and the return of each man to his ancestral heritage.
Essentially, both concepts are one, as one who until now was a slave to his
desires becomes free, and subsequently he returns to his source, which is a
state of holiness that exists when one is free from sin and desires. We can now
also understand why Yovel is in the fiftieth year. The number fifty reflects
freedom, as we find that the Jewish People in Egypt were sunk in the depths of
the forty-nine gates of impurity and Hashem liberated them before they were
completely lost. Subsequent to the Exodus the Jewish People counted the days
until they would receive the Torah, and on the fiftieth day, they received the
Torah at Sinai. The Shofar that was sounded at Sinai was referred to as a
Yovel, (see Shemos 19:13) Symbolizing that they were now truly free from Egypt
and from what Egypt symbolized, which was the blandishments of the Evil
As we approach the holiday of Shavuos, we
should be cognizant of the fact that we are not merely counting the days to
that great event of receiving the Torah. Rather, we are actually returning to
our source, which the Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 32:1; see Gemara Shabbos 146a)
states was when the Jewish People became free from the Evil Inclination and free
from the power of the Angel of Death, and in the words of the Mishna (Avos 6:2)
the true free man is one who studies Torah. HaShem should allow us to merit
being truly free to serve Him properly, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu,
speedily, in our days.
Shabbos in Action
Counting Sefirah gives us an appreciation for the counting of
seven, as Sefiras HaOmer is forty-nine days, resulting in a count of seven times seven. Shabbos is the
seventh day of the week, and it would behoove us immediately following Shabbos
to begin counting the days until we arrive at the next Shabbos.
submit your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will print
them in next week’s issue of Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim. I wish you a wonderful Shabbos. Good Shabbos.
does it help to daven if other people are talking?!
And there’s one more legacy
that Rav Yavo maintains from his rebbe. This one is not a theological
understanding; it’s a practical lesson with tangible, measurable effects. When
Rav Avigdor’s wife was niftar several years ago, Rav Yavo
delivered a hesped at the levayah. Afterwards, a
man came over to him and said, “I have to tell you a story, and you should tell
it to your kehillah.”
“Several years ago,” he began,
“I was diagnosed with a serious case of cancer, and the doctors had no hope for
me. They told me that it was just a matter of time. Shattered, I went to Rav
Avigdor to ask him for a brachah. ‘Where do you daven?’ he asked me. When I
told him where I davened, he asked, ‘Do they talk during davening there?’
I admitted that they did.
‘Don’t step into that shul
ever again,’ Rav Avigdor instructed. ‘Even if you daven perfectly, your tefillos are
trapped by those of people who talk by davening, and they cannot ascend to
Heaven. Look for another shul where they don’t talk.’
“I followed his advice, and
several weeks later I went back to the doctor. They thought I was a different
person. The cancer was disappearing.”
Rav Yavo didn’t have a chance
to share the story with his mispallelim instantly, but on
Simchas Torah, as they were about to begin Kol HaNe’orim, with all
the children already under the tallis, a mispallel approached
Rav Yavo with his son and begged him for a brachah. “My son was diagnosed with
the machlah,” he said, “and the prognosis is not good.”
The memory brings up strong
emotions even today, more than two years later. “I gave him the brachah,” Rav
Yavo relates. “But I wondered what we could do for him.
HaNe’orim, I suddenly remembered the story with Rav Avigdor. As soon
as the aliyah was over, I klopped on
the bimah, and told the mispallelim that there was
a child in the crowd with cancer. I then told them the story, and said, ‘We’re
about to start Parshas Bereishis. Let’s be mekabel to
make an extra effort not to talk by davening for the next year.’ Everyone
agreed to join.
“Three months later, the man
came running over to me one day. The doctor informed him that the cancer was
Rav Yavo told the story at
a yahrtzeit seudah, and before long, it grew wings. People now call
from all over the world to inquire about the story, which has made it onto
papers hung in many shuls.
But like a true chassid, Rav
Yavo attributes the impact to his rebbe, ending his account with a familiar
refrain, “This is all due to the influence of Rav Avigdor Miller.” (Reprinted
with explicit permission from Mishpacha Magazine)
Tales of Jewish
Before he would deliver a
Torah discourse, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter would post on the bulletin board a list
of all the sources he planned to use in his lecture. Once, after he had
instructed the shamash of the shul to post the list, two brazen young men
decided to play a practical joke. They took down the original list and put up
one they had compiled of completely new "sources."
Rabbi Salanter was accustomed
to glance at the list on the bulletin board on the way to the podium to deliver
his lecture, in order to refresh his memory before he went in to the lecture.
Imagine his shock and amazement as he looked over the new outline of sources
which he did not write and found a completely different list!
It is said that his face
turned completely white and he stood there motionless for about ten minutes,
seeming bewildered, lost in deep concentration. Then suddenly he regained his
composure, ascended the podium and gave a brilliant lecture based on the
entirely new sources ― which he had only seen moments before. The two culprits,
now feeling embarrassed and very guilty, approached the Rav after the lecture
and apologized, expressing deep regret.
It was only later that Rabbi
Naftali Amsterdam revealed what had really happened. Everyone who hears the
story probably imagines that the rabbi turned pale and stood there silently
because he had been caught unawares and did not know what to do, as he was
unable to create new thoughts on the spot from this new "list of
The truth is, however, that
this was not the case at all. Rabbi Salanter was not concerned about creating a
new lecture without prior preparation, right then and there, for his brilliance
was such that he was able to do this if he so desired. His true dilemma at that
moment was whether or not he should walk in to give the lecture and reveal his
embarrassment by keeping silent, or whether he should reveal his brilliance by
creating a new lecture to fit the sources on the "list."
If he remained silent, he
feared that he would lose his tremendous influence over his audience and miss
an opportunity to teach them. And so, during those ten minutes while he stood
there in silent concentration, he was weighing the pros and cons, deciding what
In the end, for the sake of
retaining his influence, he chose to "flex his muscles" by displaying
his genius ― because he realized that this would have a positive influence on those
who had come to hear the lecture.
Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, the Ben Ish
Chai, explained a parable [about the greatness of the Jewish people]:
There was once a man who
wanted to buy cloth for a suit. He entered a store and asked to see some samples
of material. The owner gladly obliged and gave him several very fine pieces of
suit material. In fact, they were all so beautiful that the customer could not
decide among them. So the owner suggested he take the samples home with him,
think it over and return the next day after he had decided which material he
wanted for the suit.
After leaving the store, the
man passed another store which also sold material. He considered going in, but
decided that he already had what he needed to make a decision, so why waste the
shopkeeper's time. Nonetheless, he went in and looked through the rolls of
material. When the shopkeeper asked the man if he could help him, he explained
that he really had what he needed and he had just come in to browse.
The shopkeeper smiled and
asked to see the samples of material. The man showed them to him and the
shopkeeper examined each one. "They are really beautiful, but let me show
you something I have." He went over to some bundles of fabric lying on a
table, and when he seemed to find what he was looking for, he cut out a piece
from an old suit that was among the bundles of fabric. When the customer saw
what he had done he asked for an explanation, whereupon the shopkeeper replied.
"Material should not be
judged by its beauty alone. One must also see whether it can stand the wear and
tear over time. In the other store they gave you samples of brand new material.
At this stage it certainly looks good, but who knows how it will last. What I
am showing you is material which has withstood the test of time and still
retains its beauty. You can see how the fabric did not disintegrate or come
apart at the seams, nor did the threads unravel. Old material is the true test
of what is a good choice for a sturdy, long-lasting suit."
"This is also true,"
concluded the Ben Ish Chai, "about our religion. It is an ancient faith
which has stood the test of time. Whereas other religions may have 'fallen
apart at the seams, with each generation making new innovations, ours retains
the same philosophy and practice, just as it was given to Moses at Mount Sinai
so very long ago... (www.innernet.org.il)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Behar
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Yehudah Leib Nesanel ben Baruch Yaakov
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