This issue is sponsored
Vol. 12 No. 38
R. Yisrael b'R. Yehudah Leib z.l.
Getting it Right
(Based on the Chochmas Chayim)
The Torah records how, when the people went to collect the Manna, everyone arrived home with the exact amount that he was due to receive; nobody had more and nobody had less. As a matter of fact, even someone who collected more, found that he did not have as much as a crumb more than his neighbour, nor did someone who collected less, end up with one crumb less.
Rashi in Beshalach (16:32) cites the Medrash which explains how, when hundreds of years later, Yirmiyah ha'Navi reprimanded the people for not learning Torah, they replied that they were too busy earning their livelihood to have time for such 'luxuries'. And the Medrash then relates how the Navi took out the bottle of Manna from the Kodesh Kodshim, and reminded the people that if, for forty years, G-d was able to provide the entire nation with its full food supply, without their having to raise a finger in self-support, then surely, He was capable of providing them with theirs, even if they spent a little less time in the fields and a little more in the Beis-Hamedrash!
This Medrash teaches us that when G-d fed us the Manna, He did so not only to provide us with food to eat, but also with food for thought, something from which we would be able to draw inspiration in generations to come. From the above incident, we learn that under no circumstances may one's efforts to feed one's body encroach upon one's obligations towards one's Soul. Fixing a time to learn on a daily basis is as vital to the one as earning one's Parnasah is to the other.
By the same token, says R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, the current Parshah teaches us the need to strike a balance between Hishtadlus on the one hand and Bitachon on the other.
It is immediately evident from our opening paragraph that excessive effort on one's part will not lead to increased wealth. Firstly from the fact that everyone received exactly the amount that was due to him, and not one iota more, (irrespective of any extra effort on his part; on the contrary, excessive efforts on one's part are likely to end up in disappointment, as they did then); and secondly, from the fact that the Manna arrived ready to eat, already ground, pounded, or cooked, as it suited the owner (as Chazal explain).
Moreover, the Zohar adds, every excessive movement that one makes in implementing one's basic obligations, is superfluous. And it bases this on the words "Shotu ho'om ve'loktu", which it first translates as 'The people bent down and collected it' (as if it had written 'hishtatchu' [with a 'Ches']), then (omitting the 'Ches'), it explains that those who did so were foolish, (from the word 'shoteh'); because what is destined from above, will come with the minimum effort on one's part, without even the need to bend down.
To be sure, we do not know what constitutes 'the minimum effort', but it is certainly worthwhile bearing this in mind when indulging in Hishtadlus, and avoiding at least those activities that are obviously dispensable.
R. Yosef Chayim was particularly fond of the Chafetz Chayim's famous Mashal of the fool who advised a struggling wine-merchant that by adding a seventh tap on to the six taps that his wine-barrels already contained, he would increase his income by a full sixth. A cute parable, but it is also true. A genuine Ba'al Bitachon knows that by working extra hours (even when it is permitted to do so), he will not earn one cent more than G-d allotted him on the previous Rosh Hashanah.
There is nothing that we have so far said to suggest that one should therefore sit back and let G-d do it all. Not that He can't (Chalilah)! Sure He can, and sometimes he does, like we find with Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai in the cave. And we have a precedent for that too, in the current Parshah, where, as the Medrash informs us, the Tzadikim did not even have to go and collect the Manna; they found it outside their tents each morning. The twelve princes, the Medrash says, even discovered the twelve stones for the Choshen outside their tents one morning, (where it had fallen together with their portion of Manna, each prince, his stone - for them to donate for the Mishkan). That however, pertains to Tzadikim, who have perhaps a closer relationship with G-d, based on their supreme level of Bitachon. But as for ordinary people like ourselves, G-d wants us to make Hishtadlus, and to work hard at striking the correct balance between it and Bitachon. That is part of the nisayon ha'chayim (the test of life).
Indeed, R. Yosef Chayim explains, the Torah writes in Re'ei "And He will bless you in all your endeavors". Clearly, it is up to us to create the vessel with which to contain the Divine B'rachah, for that is G-d's will.
Not only is it the will of G-d that we participate in our own livelihood, but our measured share of Hishtadlus helps form a bond between ourselves and G-d, since it causes us to raise our eyes Heavenwards, to pray that our efforts should not be in vain. For it is one of the conditions of Hishtadlus, that even as one makes the necessary effort, one remains fully aware that the result is not in one's own hands, but in the capable Hands of the Creator, and what's more, the result is not even necessarily commensurate with the effort. It also seems to me that this is part of the Mitzvah of 'knowing Hashem in all our ways', even whilst pursuing one's mundane activities.
And for the above reason it is vital that one's own input remains minimal, for the more involved one becomes in earning one's Parnasah, the more prone one is to attributing one's successes and achievements to one's own prowess, rather than to G-d's kindness (in fulfillment of the Pasuk in Eikev "My effort and the might of my hands, achieved for me this wealth"). And here too, the disadvantages are manifold; because apart from the dangers of pride and self-aggrandizement (which are inherently detrimental), one fails to acknowledge the role that G-d plays in one's daily affairs, which in turn, leads to a failure to thank Him for His constant assistance. And in addition, belief in one's own competence and self sufficiency negates the need to pray to G-d for continued success in the future of which we spoke earlier.
In any event, when making one's Cheshbon as to how much Hishtadlus to undertake, one should never allow it to infringe upon one's Tefilah be'Tzibur or on one's regular Torah Shi'urim. If one does, how can one expect G-d to bless the work of one's hands, when he himself displays gross ingratitude, conveying the impression that Torah and Tefilah hamper his efforts, and cause a decrease in his income? What sort of fool must one be to believe that in return for a virtually non-existent Emunah, G-d will bless the corn in his storehouse and send a B'rachah to all his undertakings?
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(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)
R. Yosef Chayim's Bitachon
When, not long after his marriage, R. Yosef Chayim's father-in-law accepted an appointment as Shochet in another town, his young wife felt extremely lonely and forsaken. In order to keep her company, he fixed with her a learning session each day in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim. But this did not help much, because at the same time, his father-in-law's move to a new town left R. Yosef Chayim with no source of income, and his wife suffered terribly from the pangs of hunger to which she was not accustomed. And he fully empathized with his wife in her suffering.
At that time, R. Moshe Blau records, R. Yosef Chayim turned his eyes heavenwards and said 'Ribono shel Olam! I am neither able to Daven for a good Parnasah, nor do I want to. But please take to heart the suffering of this unfortunate woman and infuse her with the Midah of Bitachon, so that she will stop worrying about Parnasah'.
It appears, R. Yosef Chayim himself later attested, that his prayer was answered, because for the rest of her life, she never had sufficient Parnasah, yet never did he hear a word of complaint from her lips.
Hashem and R. Yosef Chayim
On one occasion, when his wife's motherly instincts did get the better of her, and she was in tears at not being able to satisfy her childrens' hunger, R. Yosef Chayim mumbled to himself that now was the time to go and search for Parnasah.
His neighbour, who happened to be in the house at the time, and who overheard this comment, decided to follow him discreetly (knowing that he was an 'ish mo'feis', a man of miracles).
R. Chayim climbed up the stairs leading to the street, and turned right. He walked past the Misgav la'Dach hospital, and a short while later, the neighbour saw him bend down to pick something up from the ground. Unable to control him curiosity, he rushed forward to see what it was, and sure enough, R. Yosef Chayim was holding two Napoleons (large coins) in his hands.
Turning to the neighbour, he said matter-of-factly 'Nu, I think I can go home now. Boruch Hashem, I have made Parnasah!'
R. Moshe Blau heard from R. Yosef Chayim himself, that when he learned in Yeshivah in Pressburg under the K'sav Sofer, he was once a few pennies short of the amount needed to pay his laundry bill. Now when it came to cleanliness, the R. Yosef Chayim was extremely sensitive, far more so than he was about food, which he had no problem going without (as was not uncommon). In his misery, he went out to the main road, and sure enough, there he found exactly the amount that he needed to pay for his laundry.
Not only that, but from that day on, whenever he needed to pay for his washing, he would repeat the performance, and each time he would arrive home with the required amount.
A Free House
As a matter of fact, he obtained his house in Batei Machseh, with just about as little Hishtadlus as one would consider possible.
The house was actually built with money received as a gift from R. Ya'akov Etlinger (the famed Aruch la'Ner) expressly for the purpose of housing the Ga'on R. Avraham Sha'ag (R. Yosef Chayim's revered Rebbe), who had just moved from Kobersdorf to Yerushalayim. By the time the house was completed however, R. Avraham Sha'ag was no longer alive.
It was suggested to R. Yosef Chayim to apply to the trustees in Amsterdam, who were financially responsible for the house, for permission to take over residency. But he refused, arguing that he was unworthy to enter a residence that had been designated for his Rebbe, the Gaon and Tzadik.
A few weeks later, a letter arrived from Amsterdam to the office in Yerushalayim informing them that it had been decided to alot the house that had been prepared for R. Avraham Sha'ag to his Talmid - R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld. And that subsequently served as his residence for fifty-five years.
Rosenfeld, Not Sonnenfeld!
(A story depicting R. Yosef Chayim's incredible humility)
No communal undertaking in Yerushalayim was carried out without R. Yosef Chayim's approval; in all matters his opinion was unassailable, his word final. Yet, in spite of his authoritative position, he never expected people to comply with his decision. He would simply announce gently that this or that seemed to him to be the right thing to do. Nor did he ever summon anyone to appear before him (although it would have been perfectly natural for the Rav of Yerushalayim to do so). If the matter at hand was urgent, he would get up and make his way to the person concerned. The following story illustrates his outstanding humility in relating even to his subordinates (though he never considered hem as such).
R. Chayim's apartment was situated on the bottom floor of his apartment building. The office of the Kollel 'Hod' (the acronym of Holland Deutchland) was on the third floor, above a Shul.
It once happened that the secretary of Kolel Hod, a man by the name of R. Yisrael Lebel, remembered that the widow Rosenfeld, who lived a floor above the Kollel, had not received her monthly stipend that the Kollel allotted her. So he called the Shamash and instructed him to call Mrs. Rosenfeld, to come to the office to receive the money owing to her, and to sign for it.
The Shamash hurried off to fulfill his mission. In his haste however, he forgot whom the message was for, and due, no doubt, to the fact that R. Yosef Chayim lived on the same block, he confused Rosenfeld with Sonnenfeld, and the widow with the Rav of Yerushalayim. Having reached that stage, it is hardly surprising that he also forgot that his instructions were to go one floor up, and not down. In any case, the Shamash now descended to the bottom floor and knocked at R. Yosef Chayim's door. When the Rav answered, he respectfully informed him that the secretary of Kolel Hod wished to speak with him (he seems to have forgotten the content of the message too).
R. Yosef Chayim, who was close to eighty at the time, did not hesitate. He put on his coat, picked up his cane and climbed the four flights of stairs to Kolel Hod and knocked at the door.
When the secretary saw who it was, he nearly died of shock. "Wh ... what is the Rav d ... doing here', he stammered? 'If the Rav wants something, why did he not send for me to come to him'? He can rest assured that I would have come immediately'.
'The Shamash came to invite me to the office', replied R. Yosef Chayim matter-of-factly, 'because your honour wanted to speak with me. So here I am. What is it you wanted?'
R. Yisrael was beside himself with anguish. 'What', he retorted! 'Did the Rav imagine for one moment that I would summon the Rav of Yerushalayim! Am I stupid, a wanton sinner or one who despises Torah? How could the Rav suspect me of doing such a terrible thing?'
And then the truth dawned on him. He realized that the Shamash had got all his facts muddled up. Apologizing profusely to the Rav, he promised to give the silly fellow a piece of his mind for his stupidity, but Rav Yosef Chayim would have none of it. Picking up his cane, he forbade R. Yisrael to say a word to the Shamash, who, after all, had only made a mistake like any human being might have done, bade the secretary good day and left the office. But he did not go straight home. He climbed the flight of stairs that led to Mrs. Rosenfeld's apartment, knocked at her door, and, eyes fixed to the ground, he informed the widow that R. Yisrael the secretary, was waiting in his office with her stipend. With that, he wished her a good day and went home.
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AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Blowing the Trumpets
in the Mikdash
and in Time of War
It is a Mitzvah to blow the trumpets in the Beis ha'Mikdash every day, whenever a Korban is brought, and also in times of trouble, as the Torah writes in Beha'aloscha (10:9&10) "And when war comes to your land ... then you shall blow the trumpets" ... And on your day of joy and on your Mo'adim ... and you shall blow the trumpets, with your Olos and with your Shelamim before Hashem".
Although the Torah refers to "the day of joy, your Mo'adim and Rosh Chodesh", this is la'av dafka (not specifically the case). In fact, they blew the trumpets every day in the Mikdash together with the bringing of the Korbanos Tzibur, as the Gemara expressly states in Rosh Hashanah (29a). The Gemara there, commenting on the B'raisa which teaches that everybody is obligated to blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, Kohanim, Levi'im and Yisre'eilim, asks that this is obvious? If they are not Chayav to blow, then who is?
And it replies that the Tana needs to tell us that the Kohanim are Chayav, because we might otherwise have thought that since the Torah calls Rosh Hashanah 'A day of blowing', and Kohanim blow the Shofar every day of the year (in the Beis Hamikdash), as the Torah writes " ... and you shall blow the trumpets with your Olos ... ", they are precluded from blowing on Rosh Hashanah. The Gemara then queries this contention in that it is the trumpets that the Kohanim blow daily, whereas on the day of blowing, we blow the Shofar. In any case, we see that the Kohanim blow the trumpets in the Beis Hamikdash together with the daily Korbanos, and not only on Yom-Tov. We learned in Erchin (Perek 2. Mishnah 3) that one never blows less than twenty-one blasts in the Mikdash, and never more than forty-eight.
A reason for the Mitzvah ... because when bringing a Korban, the Kohanim need to concentrate deeply on its meaning, a. because, as is well-known, a Korban becomes disqualified with specific foreign thoughts and b. because a Korban requires proper devotion before the One who commanded it. At a time of trouble too, one needs great concentration when pleading before one's Creator to have mercy and save one from one's troubles. Therefore, the Torah commands us to blow the trumpets on these occasions. For man is a mere human-being, who needs great encouragement in these matters. He is passive by nature and not easily aroused. And there is nothing that will arouse him like the sound of a song, and all the more so when it emerges from a trumpet, which is the loudest (and the most rousing) of all the instruments.
And another advantage in the sound of the trumpets is that, besides arousing one's Kavanah, it also dispels thoughts concerning worldly matters from one's mind, allowing it to focus on the Korban exclusively. What can one say more? Anyone who listens to the tone of a trumpet and a Shofar and concentrates will be able to see this for himself.
Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara in Menachos explains that the trumpets are made from a lump of silver, as the Pasuk teaches us. Other kinds of metals disqualify them. And they also said there that the minimum number of trumpets employed in the Beis-Hamikdash is two, and the maximum, a hundred and twenty ... together with all the other Dinim that pertain to it, are explained in the Sifri and in Rosh Hashanah. Whereas the Gemara in Ta'anis (14b) elaborates on the Mitzvah to blow the trumpets in times of trouble.
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