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Mazel Tov!

Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
May 31st, 2011
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With great simchah on behalf of the Close To Torah family I would like to wish a huge Mazel Tov to our great contributor Rabbi Yosef Tropper on his recent engagement to Chaya Rosenberg of Monsey, NY. May Rabbi Tropper and his new Kallah be zocheh to build a bayis ne’eman b’yisroel!

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Peh-Sach – Pesach 5771

Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
April 17th, 2011
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A Perspective On Mourning

Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
January 9th, 2011
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The word for mourner in L’shon HaKodesh is אֵבֶל whereas there is another word with the same letters but pronounced slightly differently,אָבַל which means but. I believe that there is a connection between these two words since there is no coincidence that they both posses the same letters.

The word ‘but’ is used to negate the flow of a sentence, i.e. “I was having a good day but then it rained”. The word but in this case is saying that until it rained I was having a good day until it rained which means that due to the rain the day was no longer as good as it potentially was.

I would like to suggest that a mourner may feel at the time of his or her loss that everything in their world has suddenly been negated. All good that had been bestowed upon them suddenly came to a screeching halt and a time of uncertainty begins. I believe that such a situation is truly a nisayon or challenge for the mourner to truly grow in their emunah in Hashem. Without a doubt there is nothing that occurs in this world that is unjust, rather we cannot always understand the great reasons behind everything. In a way a mourner may feel as though up until this point in time in their life Hashem was kind and just but now all of sudden everything seems to have flipped upside down and tipsy turvy, and a ‘but’ enters the picture…chas v’shalom. Such a person may grow to be bitter and say: “I always believe in Hashem but how could this person die…”.

It is with this thought that a person can truly grow as an Eved Hashem. When faced with an opportunity to find a lacking in judgement of Hashem we must remind ourselves that Hashem is לעולם חסדו. Even the seeming negation of his chessed is always as it should be. Then one can realize that the source of this seemingly negated chessed is itself chessed. This is an opportunity to grow in another way by testing oneself in their emunah.

We should all be merited to learn this lesson without having to go through availus ourselves. Let us usher in Mashiach Tzidkainu and all see the מלא הארץ דעה.

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The King And The Clouds – Parshas Lech Lecha 5771

Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
October 15th, 2010
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It is well known that a number used in the Torah is connected to all other incidents of the same number. There were ten words or the Asarah Mamaros used in creating the world. There are ten generations that separated Adam HaRishon and Noach. The next “ten” are the ten trials of Avraham Avinu known as the Asarah Nisyonos. Then the Eser Makos, Asseres Dibros, the Eser Sefiros among others. I would like to focus on the Asarah Nisyonos that Avraham Avinu faced. The Rokaiach says that the reason that the way that Hashem spoke to Avraham Avinu beginning with the word “VaYomer“. He continues to say that the choice of this word was due to the fact that the World was created with the Asrah Mamaros in Avraham Avinu’s merit. In other words the world was created with the Asarah Mamaros due to the merit of the Asarah Nisyonos that Avraham Avinu faced. At the same time the World rests upon the shoulders of the great tzaddikim. This concept is best illustrated by the pasuk in Mishlei:

“עֲטֶרֶת זְקֵנִים בְּנֵי בָנִים וְתִפְאֶרֶת בָּנִים אֲבוֹתָם”

On the same note the first and last of the Asarah Nisyonos was to “go”, lech. This is a concept deeply rooted in secrets of the Torah, the crown or kesser is seen through the kingship or malchus. There are two aspects of the kingship of a king, the glorious crown that rests upon his head, and the kingdom that he rules. The kesser is a sign of his kingship and is really beyond the kingdom rather it shows the awesomeness of the king and all that stems from it as it lays upon his head above it all. The kesser sits above the head of the king but it is only as glorious as the king and his kingdom. The respect and diligence of the subjects of the king intensifies the radiance of the crown which he wears. Simultaneously the crown sums up the kingdom and all that they do. Looking into the crown reveals the greatness of the kingdom and their service to their great sovereign.

There must be a connection between the first and last of the Asarah Nisyonos as well as their significance as merit that the very essence of the World rests upon. The Zohar HaKodesh asks a very obvious question giving a not as obvious answer. As we have already established the first conversation as you will between Hashem and Avraham Avinu began with “VaYomer”, then it continued to “Lech Lecha”, an obligation. Asks the Zohar, later on in the parshah Hashem says “Ani Hashem Elokaichem” for lack of a better word an introduction. You can say many mussar vorts that Avraham Avinu was expressing the concept of Naaseh V’Nishma and need not be told why or anything but the will of Hashem. The Zohar answers with a not so simple answer, one that the Zohar isn’t fully happy with. The Zohar says that the gematria of Lech Lecha is one-hundred and the Zohar wanted it to be known that at the age of one-hundred Avraham Avinu will father his son Yitzchak. As I said before the Zohar seeks a further explanation to this question. We will get back to that momentarily. First we still need to understand why Avraham Avinu needs to be told that he will father a son in such a way and not he a more “personal” introduction. Firstly we must realize the connection between the first pasuk and the next. The next pasuk contains three berachos: you will be a large nation, you will be blessed, and your name will be great. Hashem begins by telling Avraham Avinu to go on a journey, to leave behind his past and embrace the path the Hashem has set before him. To ensure no doubts as one may ask how a man of seventy-five with a wife of sixty-five with no children could be the father of a large nation. Hashem started off by being mavtiach Avraham that the berachos will be fulfilled. It is still slightly troubling that this havtachah would precede the actual berachos.

The second explanation of the Zohar is a sod. The commandment of Lech Lecha is to go to Eretz  Kanaan, which is Eretz Yisroel more specifically the place where the breah essentially began. There and only there can Avraham attain the closeness with Hashem beginning with the malchus which contains one-hundred levels. In other words the Lech Lecha which is gematria one-hundred is the first step in attaining closeness. It is no coincidence that the last of the Asarah Nisyonos which is Lech is Akaidas Yitzchok which took place upon Har HaBais. This is an expression of the relationship between Kesser and Malchus. We now can understand the next pasuk by seeing the connection to the last of the Asarah Nisyonos.

Avraham Avinu is called a Kohen Gadol in many different place in the Chazal. One reason is because of the avodah he was prepared to do to his son Yitzchak. There are many references to Kohanim and more specifically Birchas Kohanim in the next pasuk.

וַאֲבָרֲכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה:

The Sefer HaRamuzim L’Rabainu Yoel says that “ואברכה מברכיך” is the gematria “כהנים מברכים בניך” as it is know the gemara in Chulin (49a) regarding Birchas Kohanim being learned from Avraham Avinu. Rabainu Efraim says that the previous pasuk “ואעשך לגוי גדול” has sofai tavos כל”י standing for כהנים לוי ישראל and כל”י is gematria sixty. Sixty or more precisely sixty thousand is a number used to refer to all of Klal Yisroel. The next pasuk ואברכה is a remez to Birchas Kohanim which contains sixty letters.

This concept of Kahuna and Birchas Kohanim being attributed to Avraham Avinu learned from the beginning of this parshah tells us a lot. The kohanim represent Midas HaChessed and Midas Hod which is represented by Aharon Kohen Gadol is also towards chessed. Avraham Avinu is keneged Midas HaChessed as that was his nature. Rabainu Efraim says a very interesting comments, אברם לך לך is gematria גשם. He explains: just as rain begins in one place (a cloud) and no one can recognize the benefit of the rain until it showers upon the land, so too Avraham Avinu stood in one place until he went (through לך לך) then the world saw the berachah. This is the chessed of Avraham Avinu, just as rain causes grown in plant life so too Avraham Avinu will cause ואגדלה שמך, that is the thought of Rabainu Efraim. Through the Lech Lecha Avraham Avinu watered our world and grew Bnei Yisroel. The Sefer HaRamazim L’Rabainu Yoel says that the word אראך is gematria בעננים. I cannot help but to feel the need explain the connection between the גשם of לך לך and the עננים of אראך as they are not coincidently found in the same pasuk. You may have asked where is this path that Hashem is taking Avraham Avinu? Just as Bnei Yisroel were shown through the midbar Avraham Avinu was shown his path through the clouds. I find it interested that the first place he goes is to Mitzrayim which is where Bnei Yisroel begin their journey. This must be a bechina of מעשה אבות סימן לבנים. It is from עננים that גשם falls from, the עננים represents the path that Avraham Avinu will follow and the גשם represents the fruit of his toil. גשם is called a berachah which is gematria זכר as Chazal say that Avraham Avinu “ששמך זוכרים בברכה יותר מכולם” in the end of the first berachah of Shemonah Esrai we say מגן אברהם not any of the other avos. That is the  “והיה ברכה” that Rabainu Efraim says, meaning it is a berachah given to Avraham that his name will be remembered by us, but all the more so…we remember it through a berachah! It is the גשם that comes from the עננים or it is the merit of creation that comes from Avraham Avinu. The rain comes from the cloud but the cloud ceases to be without the humidity of the rain. That is the kesser and the malchus. That is the Asarah Nisyonos and the Asarah Mamaros, that is the true gadlos of Avraham Avinu.

Categories: Parshas Lech Lecha Tags:

From The Heart To The Ear – Rosh HaShana 5771

Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
September 7th, 2010
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The Ramban poses a puzzling question in his drosha on Rosh HaShana. The Torah writes that we should make Rosh HaShana holy and refrain from labor, just like the other Yomim Tovim. Unlike the other Yomim Tovim, however, the Torah does not specify why we should make the day holy or what this day is all about. For example, the Torah commands us to keep Pesach, calling it Chag HaMatzos, and then explains the significance behind the chag – remembering our exodus from Egypt. I don’t believe the Ramban addresses an answer to this puzzling question, and I cannot say I am certain of one, but I would like to suggest a thought on this matter.

In the short description of Rosh HaShana the Torah specifies that there is an obligation to have a Yom Teruah and a Zichron Teruah. These verses reference the obligation to sound the shofar on Rosh HaShana. Why doesn’t the Torah explicitly state the commandment such as “Sit in the Sukkah” or “Eat Matzah” or “Take the four species”.   Instead, the Torah says that the day should be a day of the Teruah and a Zichron Teruah.

Another essential piece to the puzzle is our focus on making Hashem our king on this awesome day. It is  well known that this is an integral part of the Yom Tov, as seen in the laws of saying HaMelech HaKadosh, whereas the rest of the year we do not refer to Hashem as HaMelech in this context. Why is this major theme absent from the Written Torah?

In my opinion, the reason that the Torah does not explain the aforementioned must be to teach us something more significant by not telling us rather than telling us. With every additional word the Torah uses to further explain the mitzvah it becomes clearer to us. The less we understand a mitzvah the more likely that we can do the mitzvah for the reason that we are obligated to do it[1]. In other words, when we put on Tefillin there is nothing else to think of other than we are doing a mitzvah. When we do a mitzvah like Maakeh (to build a fence on a roof) the mitzvah may be performed in a way that is not totally due to the Torah’s obligation, i.e. safety. Generally, the mitzvos where we lack understanding can be more difficult to fulfill since we cannot grasp what we are doing except for the fact that we are fulfilling the will of Hashem.

It is possible that the acceptance of the yoke of Hashem must be entirely from the heart of a person. In other words, the Torah wanted for a person to approach Rosh HaShana from his heart not only his mind. Perhaps that is the reason for the teruos since they alert one’s heart to remember that Hashem is the King of this world. The whole year our eyes are covered from His glory and splendor. Had our eyes not been covered where would our free will be[2]? Rather, Rosh HaShana is a time set aside for alerting the heart of the People of Israel, but what for? To remember. Not to remember our sins[3] but that Hashem is our master. This thought is my interpretation of the foundation to understanding the essence of Rosh HaShana and the vague nature of the verses in the Torah.

From the day of Rosh HaShana we make Hashem our King once again[4]. We proceed from Rosh HaShana for the next ten days ascending to levels of holiness and purity until we reach the final day, Yom HaKippurim which represents the kesser or crown of the glory of Hashem. The concept of Malchus, or the kingship of Hashem, is a revelation of our actions. This means that the greater our actions, the greater the revelation of Hashem‘s Kingship.

It is said in the Seforim HaKadoshim that Yitzchak Avinu represents the Yom Tov of Shavuos. Yitzchak Avinu represents the attribute of din or judgment. We customary use a shofar made of the horn of a ram to remind us of Akaidas Yitzchak (The Binding of Isaac). There is also a connection between the shofar used on Rosh HaShana and the shofar used on Matan Torah[5] (The Receiving of the Torah). Because the verses regarding Shavuos and Rosh Hashana are juxtaposed, we also see a connection between these two holidays.  We also see the connection of Shavuos and Rosh Hashana when the gemara attempts to learn the three components of Rosh Hashanah dovening, Malchius, Zichronos, and Shofros, from the verse regarding Shavuos.

Even though I have already stated that the focus of the form of service on Rosh HaShana is through the heart, the Torah set a method of how to establish His Kingship. In other words, “Zichron Teruah”, “Yom Teruah” are the ways that we a establish The Almighty’s Kingship[6].  As we have already seen, Rosh HaShana is hidden, and what we have revealed to us in the Written Torah must be essential.  The way to achieve “teruah,” as in Yom Teruah and Zichron Teruah, is through blowing the shofar. We have already mentioned that the shofar is made from the ram’s horn which is connected to Akaidas Yitzchok. There is a concept of din and chessed regarding Akaidas Yitzchok that I now wish to explain.

It is well known that Avraham Avinu personifies the attribute of chessed as well as his son Yitzchak Avinu personifies the attribute of din. From this we can realize a very important fundamental idea. All din in the world is rooted in chessed. Just as Yitzchak Avinu is the son of Avraham Avinu so too din comes from chessed. All dinim from Hashem are completely rooted in chessed. That is a very deep idea, how the world could not stand on pure din and needed din and chessed.[7] As the verse says “Olam Chessed Yibaneh”, chessed is the foundation of everything. Now we can understand the connection between Yitzchak Avinu and shofar.

Due to Hashem‘s commandment, Avraham Avinu was prepared to sacrifice his only son as the verse says “Kach Na Es Bincha”. He listened to the decree of the King without question or doubt at all. Yitzchak Avinu stood upon that mountain prepared to sacrifice himself like a perfect korban in order to fulfill the will of Hashem. All of a sudden a Malach came and stopped the sacrifice from happening. This is a parable to Rosh HaShana. The whole year we are obligated to keep the six hundred-thirteen mitzvos of the Torah without doubt or question at all. However, we sin. In reality, one who disregards the decree of a king of flesh and blood would be killed instantly, however the King of Kings has chessed that has no limit and absolves us of our sins. Avraham Avinu listened to the decree of the King and was prepared to sacrifice his son who he loved more than himself. Yitzchak Avinu was prepared to sacrifice himself in order to fulfill the decree of the King since that was his purpose. For that reason we can understand why we blow the shofar with the horn of a ram[8], since on Rosh HaShana we recognize the glory of the King. The Avos were willing to actually give up their lives in order to fulfill the decree of the King, and with His endless chessed Yizchak Avinu’s life was spared. In other words Akaidas Yitzchak was an example of how his life was on the line and due to the glory of the King his life was spared[9]. I believe this that this explanation is also what the Shlah HaKadosh says in Mesechta Sukkah perek Ner Mitzvah ose 45.

This is a very fundamental idea as we want to have long lives with parnasah and success and everything that we need gashmius and ruchnius, for what? The purpose of it all is for the glory of the King! That is simple, if one has the ability to actually give up their lives and fulfill a mitzvah with all six hundred-thirteen parts of our bodies, what is greater than that? The Avos felt that their lives were only for the glory of the King, and nothing else.

I already wrote that Yitzchak Avinu is connected to Shavuos and Rosh HaShana. Regarding the order of the year, after Shavuos there is a personification of the attribute of din is from the beginning of Tamuz through Av until Elul. Those days are mesugal to the attribute of din.

The connection between shofar by Matan Torah and Rosh HaShana needs to be explained. I want to say a comment based off of the famous concept of the Bnei Yissaschar. He says that within the four letters of the holy name of Hashem there are twenty-four possibilities which are two sets of twelve. There is an understanding that there are two heads of the year one beginning with the attribute of chessed (Nissan) and the other with din (Tishrei). The whole year can be expressed differently when looking from the perspective of chessed or din. The ends of each year are Adar and Elul. Just as it is written that the Jews accepted the Torah during the time of Purim[10] through ahavah so too during the month of Elul there must also be an acceptance of the Torah, however it will be through yirah. The acceptance of the Torah in Elul is obviously linked to the month of Tishrei and this is another connection between Rosh HaShana and Torah.

I would like to suggest a nuance on something that I have heard many times from my great Rebbi, HaRav Nochum Lansky Shlita who said this idea in the name of the Gr”a z”l. In the first verse of the Shema there are six words. In the second verse of the Shema (Boruch Shaim) has five words. Says the Gr”a z”l that the word echad is the connection between the two verses. It is a well-known idea from the Arizal that Rebbi Akiva is considered the father of Torah Sh’Baal Peh (The Oral Law). The gemara in Berachos says that Rebbi Akiva passed on while uttering the word echad. Therefore, says the Arizal that Rebbi Akiva connects the two parts of Torah together. On that idea I would like to suggest that Krias Shema is the acceptance of the yoke of His Kingship and we learn from the Arizal that Krias Shema hints to the entire Torah therefore we see a great bond between Rosh HaShana and Shavuos as well as Yitzchak Avinu with Torah and Malchus.

Finally, I want to explain that there is a connection between Rosh HaShana and Shavuos. Rosh HaShana is in the seventh month of the year, and the number seven has very deep significance such as Shabbos, Shmittah, Yovel, Niddah, Shavuos. A commonality all of these have is they deal with tachlis or purpose. That is to say that just as Shabbos is called the tachlis maaseh breishis so too shmitah is end of the seven year cycle as well as Yovel. A Niddah becomes permitted to her husband on the seventh day. The seventh month is the beginning of the year and that is the foundation of Adam HaRishon, as he was created on the sixth day in order to fulfill the mitzvos of the garden and that of Shabbos which is the tachlis of the world. Generally, Rosh HaShana is a revelation of the attribute that we are able to purify ourselves (like niddah) and on Yom HaKippurim which is also in the seventh month, then we can obtain that level of observance of Torah and Mitzvah.

The Chazal write that we do not blow a regular horn because it hints to malchus and the attribute of din. However, shofar of the ram hints to the attribute of Rachamim. The strength of the shofar of the ram is to flip the attribute of din to rachamim.

I would like to conclude with a general thought. The Yomim Noraim are days of slichah and kaparah a time where the King sits on the kisai din. I want to mention the famous Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah who states “what is teshuvah gemuarah”. He says someone who had sadly fallen to temptation and committed a sin against the decree of the King. Later this individual finds himself in the situation where he is tempted to sin again but stops himself from sinning. Why, says the Rambam? Because of the teshuvah. What does that mean? The teshuvah raises a person to a place above where he had been prior to his sin. On that subject even though he still has a Yetzer HaRa his Yetzer Tov is stronger! It is more than difficult to destroy and purge his Yetzer HaRa entirely, rather strengthen his Yetzer Tov.

On Rosh HaShana we are all merited to experience how the Rambam describes the blowing of the shofar. He says “Ooroo Ooroo Yishainim M’Shinaschem” (Wake up, wake up the sleeping from their slumber). However, the Chazal say that in reality regarding the mitzvah of the shofar there is a flip of the attribute of din to rachamim and then Hashem will rise from the kisai din and sit down upon the kisai rachamim. The implication from the words of the Chazal is seemingly opposite from that of the Rambam. The Rambam seems to imply that the mitzvah of shofar causes us to wake up and do teshuva. I believe that the two are not contradictions. Through the blowing of the shofar there is a possibility for Hashem to sit upon the kisai rachamim. In other words, through our merit that we establish the Kingship and realize the Hashem is the King of Kings we will become careful with all the mitzvos of the Torah. Once we realize the Kingship of Hashem and the great yoke that we have upon us the tears will follow, the embarrassment of what we have done will be apparent. Says the Mabit that our nishamos are unable to become dirty with our sins, it is only our perception that we feel dirty and impure. However, we feel and cry for each and every sin that we do…but it is the klipos that quiet us down for the whole year. Through the inspiration of the shofar we wake up and make it possible to perceive the glory of the King and the utter embarrassments that we have for not following his decrees. After that the King will arise and sit upon the kisai harachamim and absolve our past. Meaning that regardless of the fact that we “wake up” or not we still have past history.

I wish to give a berachah to all those who read this (and to those who don’t as well) that b’ezras Hashem Yisborach we should all be merited to be written in the book of life for the year ahead. Not for ourselves, rather for Him, for Hashem. In order to serve Hashem with all our might, in all areas of life, at all times, and in all situations. This year to come we will be merited to rise to the holy land and build our Avinu Malkainu his house and then and only then will His true glory be clear to the whole world.

[1] I am not talking about the difference between l’shma and lo l’shma, rather I am talking about if a mitzvah should be performed because it is understood logically, or because you want to do it because that is the will of Hashem. I heard once from Rav Gifter zt”l, that we have something called “Taamei HaMitzvah”. From the language of tam, to taste.  Says Rav Gifter that the reason we eat a fruit is for nourishment, the taste is only secondary. The reason we do mitzvos is because that is the will of Hashem, however the “tam” is what does it taste like when we perform it. That is what I am referring to, the more that we know about a mitzvah the more difficult it becomes to do it only because that is the will of Hashem as opposed to all the tamei haMitzvah.

[2] The basis of free will is that the will of Hashem is not overwhelming to the extent that you cannot act against it.

[3] There are no selichos there is no viduy on Rosh HaShana, it may not be agreed upon if it is a day of simchah, but it surely is not a sad day. All the tefillos are focused on being mamlich Hashem not on the fact there is a din on our future.

[4] Hashem is always our Melech as mentioned earlier we cannot have free will if we always feel that the Melech is looking over our shoulders.

[5] Shla”h Hakadosh in many places.

[6] The shofar brings us to be mikabel Hashem as the Melech.

[7] Even though din comes from chessed it by itself was still too potent that pure chessed was needed as well.

[8] The ram was brought as an olah in place of the sacrifice of Yitzchak Avinu.

[9] Meaning if you do mitzvos with every fiber of potential that you possess then you are living your life to serve Hashem. A person who is not put in the Sefer HaChaim doesn’t just mean they were rishaim rather, that for whatever reason their death will provide more Kavod Shemaim, i.e. m’siras nefesh for Kiddush Hashem.

[10] Kimu V’Kiblu Ha’Yehudim

Categories: Machshuvah, Mussar, Rosh Hashana, Shavuos Tags:

Looks are skin deep – Parshas Chukas 5770

Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
June 23rd, 2010
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“וַיִּשְׁמַע הַכְּנַעֲנִי מֶלֶךְ עֲרָד יֹשֵׁב הַנֶּגֶב כִּי בָּא יִשְׂרָאֵל דֶּרֶךְ הָאֲתָרִים וַיִּלָּחֶם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּשְׁבְּ מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁבִי” (במדבר פרק כא)

Rashi says a very puzzling thing on right after Aharon HaKohen passes on. The Torah tells us that it is heard that Aharon passed on and the anunim that had been guiding Bnei Yisroel leave their presence. The nation of Amalek ימ”ש believe that there is no protection from Hashem anymore ח”ו and they decide to attack. Amalek are the descendants of Esav and they have a land that they believe is rightfully theirs.

There seems to be a discrepancy as to the nature of the dress of Amalek. Rashi says that they dressed in Amalek clothing and spoke like Cannanim. The Midrash Yilamdu says that they also dressed like Cannanim. The Yilamdu is very clear to understand, it is Rashi that is puzzling. According to both the intention was an attempt to trick Bnei Yisroel so that their prayer are incorrect, they would pray to defeat Cannan when in fact they were fighting Amalek. Bnei Yisroel said a neutral prayer and avoided their tactic all together.

Not that it means anything, but I was unable to find any basis for Rashi explanation. Targum Yonasan may be the earliest who makes reference to Amalek instead of Cannan like all of the other Targum. A simple question is how did he know that the pasuk is dealing with Amalek since it says Cannan. There is a pasuk:

“עֲמָלֵק יוֹשֵׁב בְּאֶרֶץ הַנֶּגֶב וְהַחִתִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי וְהָאֱמֹרִי יוֹשֵׁב בָּהָר וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי יֹשֵׁב עַל הַיָּם וְעַל יַד הַיַּרְדֵּן” (במדבר פרק יג)

There is an obvious contradiction between this pasuk and our pasuk. Our pasuk speaks of the Cannanim who dwell in the Negev, whereas this pasuk says that Amalek live in the Negev. From this we can begin to understand where the commentators understood how our pasuk is dealing with Amalek. Additionally we can understand how it may be possible for Rashi to say that they dressed as Amalek but spoke like Cannanim as there is an obvious contradiction that needs clarification.

As I already mentioned Rashi’s understanding bothers me, while I have pointed out this contradiction to go as far as Rashi is difficult. The main difficulty is once Amalek are going to change their language, why not go all the way and change their dress. I saw from the Belzer Rebbe a pshat that was far from what I was looking for. He says that we see from here that the dress is so important to a person that had Amalek changed their dress to that of Cannan they would be like Cannan to the degree that the tefillah would work! In complete opposition to what Rav Aharon Leib Shteiman said a nice point that whose to say that had Bnei Yisroel said the wrong nation their prayers would not have been answers, he implies that it was understood that it was this nation they were fighting.

I asked my great Rebbi, HaRav Nochum Lansky Shlita how to understand Rashi. He suggested on the spot that there is a connection between this and Yaakov and the birthright. I think what my Rebbi meant was that it is known that Amalek came from Esav. When Yaakov went to his father to receive the birthright he put hides on his arms to make them appear to be hairy like that of his brother Esav. Yitzchak proclaimed that hands are that of Esav but the voice is that of Yaakov, and he gave Yaakov the berachah.

Perhaps the pshat is that Amalek want to get the land that they thought should have been theirs. Esav was the antithesis of Yaakov therefore where Yaakov changed his physical appearance, Amalek change their voice. Directly following the tefillah of Bnei Yisroel the pasuk says   ”וישמע ה’ בקול ישראל ..”as if to say that the voice of Yaakov was still heard.

Categories: Parshas Chukas Tags:

Torah, Will You Marry Me? – Shavuos 5770

Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
May 14th, 2010
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Many things in this world exist as pairs. There is Man and Woman; there are the Heavens and the land, and so on. Our world is built upon a foundation of these relationships. There is only one true existence which is without a pair, which is Hashem. Everything else not only has a pair but must have a pair. Torah is also two, Torah ShBichsav and Torah ShBaal Peh. With all of these pairs there are parallels in which one pair will personify the other as well. Man and Woman are parallel to Torah ShBichsav and Torah ShBaal Peh. This is because the nature of Man is to transmit and nourish, whereas Woman is to take in and develop. The Torah ShBichsav is composed of pasukim. Torah ShBaal Peh conveys the meaning of the pasukim.

I recently heard an incredible explanation of a cryptic statement of the Chazal (T.Z 21) from my great Rebbi, Rav Nochum Lansky Shlita. He explained that when Moshe hit the rock instead of speaking with it, serious repercussions followed. The relationship between Torah ShBaal Peh and Torah ShBichsav was deeply disturbed. The level of understanding of Torah ShBaal Peh was hindered; no longer would there be clarity among all. Now there will be questions, difficulties, and even disagreements. The concept of a Rebbi or teacher of Torah became essential. This is hinted by the word מריבה , since it contains the letters רבי .

While my Rebbi didn’t explain why this punishment was a consequence of this particular sin, I would like to suggest a possibility. It is specifically through dibur that Moshe Rabbeinu was instructed. It is well known that the both speech and hearing were used in the chayte of the Etz HaDaas. The Nachash spoke lashon harah about Hashem and gave an aitzah raah as well. Speech is known to be one of the main differences between animals and man. We have bechirah and speech; they have neither. Speech is so special because of its refinement. Through careful adjustments of our mouth and tongue, we are able to make precise sounds that communicate specific messages. A person who is angry, instead of speaking may bang his hand on the table to convey his point, when he really is just trying to get your attention.

It is well beyond me to convict Moshe Rabbeinu of any wrong doing. Rather I am simply trying to understand the reason as to why Moshe Rabbeinu deserved punishment. I would like to clarify that it may not have been as much as a punishment as it was an affect. Meaning that Moshe Rabbeinu was the one who transmitted the Torah from Hashem to Bnei Yisroel. It could be that due to his favoring his staff over his words, he created a shift in the World that made the Torah that he said over more unclear. That means that his ability to teach Torah to

Bnei Yisroel is the same as the ability to cause water to flow. When he was unable to utilize this strength properly it weakened it entirely.

The other understanding could have been that due to the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu used his staff instead of his words, Hashem punished Bnei Yisroel by making it that they would need to work harder to understand what they are being told.

The damage that was done by the hitting of the rock has been instilled in our relationship to the Torah. In reality the Torah was never created as one, but rather as a pair that functioned in unison. The perfect model of a relationship is where one gives and the other takes in and utilizes. Where one side takes or gives too much, there is a lack of balance.

It is well known that there are several parables associated with the relationship of Torah ShBichsav and Torah ShBaal Peh. The bond between Man and Woman is by far the most recognized. It is the Man who represents the Torah ShBichsav and the Woman who represents the Torah ShBaal Peh. The Man is the one who gives and provides whereas the Woman receives and utilizes.

Torah ShBichsav is the source of Torah ShBaal Peh as Torah ShBichsav is the basis of what Torah ShBaal Peh explains. Torah ShBaal Peh interprets Torah ShBichsav and gives meaning to the text that would have been unable to be comprehended otherwise.

Chazal teach us that there is a dispute in regards to the berachos for a new married couple, whether two berachos are made in regards to the forming of Man or just one. First the gemara (Kesubos 8a) questions if there were two formations. The gemara rejects the possibility that there were more than one formation and suggests that the question is if the berachos are determined by the thought or the action that was carried out. There is one pasuk that suggests that there was a thought to create two, but the action that was carried out was only one.

The Maharsha says on that gemara, that just as there was a thought to create the World with the attribute of din and saw that the World would not stand, similarly, there was a thought to create Man and Woman separately like all the other creatures. It was apparent that Man would

be unbalanced and saddened so Man was created as one with the potential to bring themselves together as one body.

Man was created as one and not as two. The Torah states shortly after the creation of Man:

“ויאמר ה’ אלקים לא טוב היות האדם לבדו אעשה לו עזר כנגדו” (בראשית ב, יח)

Even within the creation of Man as one, there was a need for Woman. The World could not stand if they were created separately. However once they were created as one, it was described as “לא טוב “, not good for Man to be by himself.

It is without a question that this was the intention. There was no mistake or that Hashem changed his mind, chas v’shalom. It was essential that Man and Woman be created as one. It is my understanding that Man and Woman had to be created in a single formation to the extent that they were one body, as that would truly bind them as one.

Through the parallel of Torah ShBichsav and Torah ShBaal Peh being Man and Woman respectively, there must be continuity to this thought. Torah ShBichsav and Torah ShBaal Peh were to be created as two. It was understood that the World could not stand that way, and so the Torah in its entirety was created through one.

Torah ShBichsav was created just as Man was created, and then Hashem said, it was not good by himself. Man personifies the concept of one who gives. Without the ability to give, Man is unable to exercise his will. Similarly, Torah ShBichsav is to be interpreted by Torah ShBaal Peh.

The separation of Man and Woman as well as Torah ShBichsav and Torah ShBaal Peh is a state to enable unity in a way that closest resembles the only true one, Hashem. While nothing can be one as Hashem, it is evidently clear that Torah and Man were created in a way that they should mimic closely.

Through the hitting of the rock Moshe Rabbeinu further separated the relationship between Torah ShBichsav and Torah ShBaal Peh. A major role in our lives is to unite the two, Man and Woman which is the two parts of Torah.

There is a wonderful Dvar Torah in the Tashbetz Katan (465) that explains many connections between the receiving of the Torah and marriage. To name a few:

  • · Just as Bnei Yisroel fasted before Matan Torah so too the Chassan and Kallah fast
  • · There are ten times that Bnei Yisroel is called Kallah, (seven times in  שה”ש and three times in other seforim. There must be a connection between the seven and three)
  • · Those ten times are keneged the Aseres HaDibros
  • · As well as the ten people needed to make the shevah berachos which we learn from Boaz.
  • · Just as the even of the Aseres HaDibros were handed over, so too a Chassan gives his Kallah her kesubah
  • · “חתן על כלה” בגימטריא “התורה”
  • · “חתן על כלה” בגימטריא “תרי”ג” וגימטריא “משה רבינו”

The marriage between Man and Woman is to bring these two separate individuals together. To unify themselves, to be as close to one body as possible. On the chag of Shavuos, there is also a marriage between Torah Sh’Bichsav and Torah Sh’Baal Peh, just as there is by Man and Woman.

We saw from the Tashbetz and originally from Chazal, that we learn the law that the Shevah Berachos must be with ten men from Boaz. Boaz became the husband of Rus who was the great grandfather of Dovid HaMelech. On Shavuos we read Sefer Rus because she was m’gayer just as Bnei Yisroel did. We know that Mashiach is called Mashiach Ben Dovid. Rus represents the potential to bring the geulah. There is an obvious connection between the Shevah Berachos and Boaz. As we saw the Tashbetz notes that seven of the ten times that Bnei Yisroel are called Kallah are in Shir HaShirrim. He is making a connection between the number seven which personifies the attribute of Malchus which is Shlomo HaMelech, who wrote Shir HaShirrim. The Tashbetz is directly making a connection between the ten people needed for the Shevah Berachos and the Asres HaDibros.

Rebbi Akiva is called the Av of Torah ShBaal Peh, he was the son of a ger. Dovid HaMelech comes from Rus who was a geuris and from Yehuda and Tamar. Rus was a Moavis who came from the Lot and his daughter. Dovid HaMelech had Shlomo HaMelech through Bat Shevah. We see a theme that Torah ShBaal Peh comes from outside of the norm of Bnei Yisroel. Coming from gerim and from prohibited relations. This is because Torah ShBaal Peh is the choshech and that which is lacking and imperfect. This is how Torah Sh’Baal Peh binds with Torah Sh’Bichsav.

I want to suggest that the Shevah Berachos are the Torah Sh’Baal Peh as they are learned from Boaz, and the Aseres HaDibros is the essence of Torah Sh’Bichsav. In this relationship we see how they can become one. Therefore it is understood that the geulah will come through the yichud of Torah Sh’Bichsav and Torah Sh’Baal Peh.

The whole world stands on these principles. The bond between Man and Woman is connected to the bond between Torah Sh’Bichsav and Torah Sh’Baal Peh. This model extends to Klal Yisroel as well. In this relationship, Hashem is the Chassan giving to Bnei Yisroel. If we are lacking unity, we are not a vessel that is capable of receiving the Torah. That is why at the time of Matan Torah, all of Bnei Yisroel were m’gayer. They all became new people…without any blemish…nothing between them.

In the other relationship between Torah Sh’Bichsav and Torah Sh’Baal Peh, if the Torah Sh’Baal Peh doesn’t properly interpret the Torah and complete the relationship, there will be a lacking, a distancing. The sfaykos that came from the hitting of the rock caused more difficulty in understanding Torah Sh’Baal Peh. There is a great need to understand it and then apply it to the Torah Sh’Bichsav. Without this, the balance of giving and receiving is off.

On Shavuos we are in a way “renewing our vows”. We accept the Torah as we did the first time. Had we accepted the Torah fully and did everything we could do, in regards to unity as Klal Yisroel and in our learning of Torah, making it shalaim, we would have had the geulah. This year we should go and m’gayer ourselves! Remove the sinas chinum and truly embrace all of Bnei Yisroel. Make Klal Yisroel a kli kibbul that can properly accept the Torah HaKedoshah. Then take the beautiful Torah, the holy of holies. Learn it and treasure it. Unite the Torah Sh’Bichsav with the Torah Sh’Baal Peh. Let the true will of Hashem Yisborach be “מלא הארץ דעה “, and the World will see clearly the Torah for what it is.

Counting to Kedushah

Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
April 2nd, 2010
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There is a well known gemara in Yevamos 62b that discusses the passing of the students of the great and illustrious Rebbi Akiva. The gemara says that they did not show respect to each other. Such a tragic event to befall Bnai Yisroel. Not due to the wicked or the heretics, but to those who were the pillars of the world. The ones who would continue the transmission of the Torah. To do something so terrible that would warrant their death, there must be much more than appears.

We know that the time in which the students passed on was between Pesach and Shavuos. During that time we count the omer. We count seven weeks of seven days from the day following the first day of Pesach. On the night that would be the fiftieth we celebrate Shavuos.

During that time period we undergo a transformation. On Pesach we bring an offering of barley, which is primarily considered animal feed. On  Shavuos we bring the Shtai HaLechem an offering of bread, which is food that a human will consume. That is as if we ascend from a level of animal to that of human.

Every night of this seven week period we count another day toward the fiftieth day. Every night we take a stride closer to purifying ourselves of the beastly urges that we have. We make a berachah and count the day of the omer. We use our mouth to say the berachah and to count the days and weeks of the omer.

The Arizal says that the word Pesach can be looked at to be Peh Sach which may mean the mouth that speaks. The idea of this is that on Pesach there are many ideas of speech. We have a mitzvah to discuss the events of the exile from Egypt. We also have the Hallel that we recite on the night of Pesach. We also use our mouth to say the omer which begins following the first day of Pesach.

The mouth is very interesting as it is the same vessel that is used for consuming food as well as breathing as well as speech and finally as a place for intimacy. How can one place be used for all those things? A place that is used for eating, doing that which is one of the most animalistic actions as well as intimacy which may also be considered animalistic. Through the same place we say beautiful words of Torah and daven as well!

I think this is the lesson of Sefiras HaOmer. We are obligated to use our mouths for kedushah on the night of Pesach and then the next day the students of Rebbi Akiva were killed for their lack of respect to their fellow. It must be that during this time period we are held to a very high standard of kedushah. We are coming from a high of Pesach where we must embrace the levels of kedushah and ascend to prepare for Kabbalos HaTorah on Shavuos. Where there is great room for kedushah and growth there is also chas v’shalom room for the opposite. Wherever Hashem allows for tov there must be an allowance for rah as that is the nature of the world after the chayte of the Aitz HaDaas. It is for this reason that we must sanctify ourselves. We must learn from the students of Rebbi Akiva who tragically were cut short of their lives. We must embrace this time period as a time to use our words with kindness. To use our mouth for kedushah not just within our friends but internally as well. We must focus on our tefillos and on our learning. This is a time where we ascend to levles of kedushah that are free from animalistic urges. We must count the omer and look up above and take the next step. May we all be zocheh to use our mouths with care and truly use this time to rise above and make the potential the reality!

Pesach Once a Year

Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
March 25th, 2010
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Pesach is the time where we find the most interesting customs and stringencies. Pesach has two prohibitions given to it, and the great punishment of kares. Pesach is no more stringent than Shabbos…in fact it is less. Why is it that we treat Pesach with such meticulous care? So you may answer me right away that by Shabbos and Yom HaKippurim the shiur of issur is either a k’zayis or a grogeris…whereas by Pesach its even a ma’shehu. That is true! At the same time, Shabbos comes every seven days and Pesach once a year. It is obvious that the great excitement for Pesach enables us to keep up our best behavior whereas by Shabbos…we start slacking off.

The fact that Shabbos occurs every seven days and Pesach only once a year is because it was needed more often than Pesach. In other words, the affect of Pesach can last us a year and then we need a refresher. By Shabbos…we need it every week. The fact remains that if Shabbos is obligated every week that means that we need it every week. As it is well known from the Chazal, that a Shabbos kept “K’tikunah” would bring the g’eulah. That must mean that we don’t keep Shabbos the way it can be. I still think that means that we would be obligated to keep Shabbos every week, but it is clear that Shabbos has room for improvement.

Where am I going with all of this? I am bothered with the fact that the world goes upside down for Pesach but Shabbos is “just Shabbos”. I had written an article recently on Close To Torah, for Parshas Vayakhel where I made an interesting observation on the beginning pasukim. The Torah says that you should work for six days and the seventh you should rest. I noted that the rest cannot occur without the six days of work. That means that if you do “nothing” for the six days, the rest won’t seem very significant. It is the way that you approach your work during the week that gives more kedushah to Shabbos. What that means is, that when you work during the week with intention to work, and then on Shabbos we rest…that’s not good enough. You should work with intention to rest on Shabbos! What I mean to say is that Shabbos is the purpose of the Creation. That means that all was intended for the sake of Shabbos. In the same vein we should keep this in mind when we are totally involved in our weekly activities. I’m not talking about just doing things for the sake it, I’m talking about that the we should do our work in order so that we can do our rest on Shabbos. Resting on Shabbos isn’t the absence of work, it is an active rest.

The difference between Yomim Tovim and Shabbos, is that on Yom Tov we work…we like to work. We have a hard time resting. Resting!? I love to rest! No, I don’t just mean to sleep, or to lounge around. Rest means to rest from all of the existence of Olam HaZeh, to rest from the constant war of the Yetzer HaRa. To rest by completely involving oneself in a glimpse to the World to Come.

Now on Pesach, we should “work” so that we may rest on Shabbos. May Hashem Yisborach help us to keep all of the laws of Pesach. Not just the laws of Pesach, but the work of Pesach. Ah! The work in this case is the work of growing with the Yom Tov. Going through a Yitzias Mitzrayim, going through a Hallel. Feeling as though we were completely in the chains of our Yetzer HaRa and left in a world without purpose. On Pesach we work to grow in emunah and to extend our relationship with Hashem. On Shabbos we will then take that work and internalize it, to make ourselves fresh to work again. To rest from the work so that we may rest as we awaken to the day that Mashiach Tzidkaynu ends this bitter galus which is a constant reminder that we are not working or resting enough!

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Shabbos – Obtaining Kedushah – Parshas Vayakhel 5770

Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
March 12th, 2010
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ששת ימים תעשה מלאכה וביום השביעי יהיה לכם קדש שבת שבתון לה’ כל העשה בו מלאכה יומת – Kodesh is given to you. How do you get kedushah only by working six days and the seventh day shall be for you kodesh. It isn’t kodesh just by being sanctified itself, rather through the work of the week can you create the kedushah of Shabbos. Shabbos is not an absence of work but an active state of not working. There is a difference between not working and taking a break. Not working is when you are supposed to work and you choose not to. Taking a break is a time set aside for rejuvenation. Can you have a break if you don’t work? It isn’t only that you cannot have a break without working but the contrast between the two gives more meaning to each. That is kedushah. Kedushah is taking the mere mundane and elevating it by using it for a purpose beyond the ordinary. While we may seem to exist primarily in the mundane world, we are really well beyond a realm of constriction and boundaries. The vast plains of toil in the physical world comprise the corridor to a great existence. The usage of this world is in order that we may be able to do the will of the Almighty in its glory. The greater purpose of our lives is revealed through the lens of Shabbos. Shabbos is the gift that makes everything have a purpose. It is a glimpse to the future which had been the past.

Why is it that the desecration of Shabbos is punishable by death? Perhaps an understanding of this idea is because the purpose of the weekdays are to bring out the Shabbos. Their whole purpose is to create Shabbos. By desecrating the Shabbos you are undoing the reason for the week all together therefore you have taken away your life in that world. That is of course true in the positive as well. When you keep Shabbos it is as though you have given purpose to life once again.

Why is Shabbos the first aspect of this parshah which is specifically directed at the congregation of the Jewish people? The Rokaiach gives a very fundamental answer to this question which seems to be based on the midrash brought in the Yalkut Shimoni. He says for six days we work and are involved in our work, but on Shabbos we must only be involved in the learning of Torah. Shabbos is the time given to be fully immersed in the learning of Torah which will enable the overall observance of mitzvos. It seems from the yalkut that the role of the learning on Shabbos is in order to ensure that the people will keep the mitzvos.

The major subject of this parshah is the tabernacle therefore there must be a reason why the parshah begins with Shabbos. It is well known that the laws of Shabbos are derived from the building of the tabernacle. That means that there is an inherit connection between the building of the tabernacle and the sanctity of Shabbos. The Sages learn from the pasuk אלה הדברים the thirty-nine different labors prohibited on Shabbos. אלה is gematriah thirty-six, דברים which is plural adds another two and the ה adds another one resulting in thirty-nine. Therefore the prohibited acts on Shabbos are enumerated from the pasuk that begins our parshah.

Shabbos is an אות and a ברית. An ose means it is a sign, a bris means a binding relationship. Ose which also literally means a letter is the formation of the thought that is represented in that letter. There are twenty-two different ways of expressing thought in the Torah and each one of those letters contain every single thought. Shabbos is one of the few sets of laws that are learned from gematriah. Perhaps an explanation is because the idea of gematriah is that each letter contains a numerical value. That numerical value is not arbitrary rather it is an expression of the thought behind the letter itself. That is Shabbos. Shabbos represents the completion of the world. Shabbos is one of the things that binds us through a bris to Hashem that makes us unique from the nations. Shabbos contains the deep fundamental ideas that define the Jewish people which qualify to be called an ose. It is an ose because it goes back to the source of the world which is the six days of creation and the day of rest, Shabbos. The gematriah for Shabbos teaches us the amount of the activities done in the building of the tabernacle which also are the prohibitions on Shabbos. The actions that create a place for the divine presence to rest in this world are the same actions which also create a time that is special to Yisroel. Shabbos is the relationship with Hashem through time just as the Land of Yisroel is through place. The Land of Yisroel is of course given its kedushah due to the holy temple. The tabernacle is the first initiative for a place for such a relationship. The kedushah found in the tabernacle is like that which is found on Shabbos. The ose which is the letters of the Torah are what binds the Torah together. The letters of the Torah are the names of the Almighty. The divine presence rests upon anyone who mentions His name, this is through Torah. The Shabbos is the inner thought of the Torah, just as the Torah is just for Yisroel so is Shabbos. Torah is that which transcends time and place. It binds us to Hashem both in the evening and the morning.