Vol. 14 No. 29
This issue is co-sponsored
Meir ben Benzion Sand z.l.
ha'Tamim Binyamin ben Pinchas z.l.
All About the Omer
(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)
A Period Devoid of Simchah
One of the reasons for the absence of Simchah during this period is based on the opinion of R. Yochanan ben Nuri, who maintains that it is from Pesach till Shavu'os that the Resha'im are judged in Gehinom. And he bases this in turn, on the Pasuk at the end of Yeshayah (with reference to the Resha'im in Gehinom) "And it shall be from Shabbos (i.e. the first day of Pesach) till Shabbos (Shavu'os, which is also called Shabbos) all flesh will (leave Gehinom and) come to prostrate themselves before Me … " (Bartenura at the end of the second Perek of Idiyos).
Alternatively, it is because the produce is judged during these days, rendering it a period of judgement. And this is also one of the reasons that 'Shehechiyanu' is not recited when one starts counting the Omer.
Iyar, a Healthy Month
The month of Iyar, says the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim, is known to be a healthy month (e.g. to clear the stomach of waste and to strengthen the gall-bladder). This is due to the established fact that most illnesses stem from food that does not agree with the eater. That being the case, bear in mind that the Mon began to fall in Iyar, and the Mon is described as 'Bread that became absorbed in the eater's limbs', causing him no illness and no pain. It therefore transpired that this month served as a healing for the whole of K'lal Yisrael, says the B'nei Yisaschar, and it has continued to serve in that capacity ever since.
Another reason for this is because the gates of healing are opened during this month, as is hinted in the first letters of the three words in Beshalach "Ani Hashem Rof'echa" (which spell 'Iyar').
The Levush states that the Talmidim of R. Akiva who died during the days of the Omer, did not die on any of the days on which Tachanun is not said, incorporating the seven days of Pesach, the two days of Rosh Chodesh Iyar, one of Rosh Chodesh Sivan and the seven intervening Shabbosos. This totals seventeen days, leaving thirty-two days on which the Resha'im did die. Hence the Minhag to observe thirty-two days of semi-mourning during the Omer.
And the Maharil gives this as the reason for the rejoicing on Lag bo'Omer. He seems to maintain that R. Akiva's Talmidim died from the beginning of the Omer until Erev Lag bo'Omer. This is also the opinion of the Nofes Tzufim, who maintains that R. Shimon bar Yochai was the last of R. Akiva's Talmidim to die - on Lag bo'Omer, at which point the Dinim became sweet, which is why it became a day of rejoicing.
The Seventh of Adar and Lag bo'Omer
Interestingly, the seventh of Adar (the Yohrtzeit of Moshe Rabeinu) has become a day of mourning and fasting (as is customary in Chevros Kadishos throughout the world), whereas Lag bo'Omer (the Yohrtzeit of R. Shimon bar Yochai) is a day of rejoicing and festivities.
This is because on the one hand, Moshe Rabeinu himself cried over the day of his death, and was reluctant to die without having fulfilled the Mitzvos of Eretz Yisrael, so we cry too; whilst on the other, R. Shimon bar Yochai eagerly anticipated the day of his death. And if R. Shimon was happy, we are happy too.
Bows and Rainbows
There is a Minhag for children to play with bows and arrows on Lag bo'Omer. The B'nei Yisaschar citing R. Mendel mi'Riminov, attributes this to the statement of Chazal, that during the lifetime of R. Shimon bar Yochai the rainbow was never seen, a sign that, due to his righteousness, the generation, which was otherwise worthy of being exterminated, was spared. That is why on his Yohrtzeit, the Minhag evolved to play with bows and arrows, a play on words ('Keshes', which means both a bow and a rainbow, and) which reminds us of his greatness.
The Last Days of the Omer
The reason that Tachanun is not recited as from Rosh Chodesh Sivan until the eighth of Sivan (many actually have the Minhag not to recite Tachanun until the thirteenth, including the seven days of complementation), says the Magein Avraham, is because already on the second of Sivan, Moshe instructed Yisrael to sanctify themselves in preparation for Matan Torah.
Special Status Day
Why is the second of Sivan known as 'Yom Meyuchas' (special status day), ask the commentaries?
They ascribe it to the fact that it is sandwiched between Rosh Chodesh and the Sheloshes Yemei Hagbalah (the three days of fencing off which precede Shavu'os),
By the same token, says the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim, citing the Gemara in Sanhedrin, the Mishnah omits Achaz from the list of kings who lost their portion in Olam ha'Ba, because he was sandwiched between the two Tzadikim, Yosam and Chizkiyahu.
Another reason is cited by the Sha'ar bas Rabim, with reference to Yisrael's arrival at Har Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, when G-d instructed Moshe to inform Yisrael that they would be for Him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, and a treasure over and above all the other nations. Moshe may have been told this on Rosh Chodesh. Nevertheless, the Gemara informs us, due to the fact that the people were tired from the journey, he only passed on the information the following day - on the second of Sivan. And since the special status was conferred upon them on the second of Sivan, it adopted the auspicious title of 'Special Status Day'!
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They'd Better be Holy!
"They shall be holy to their G-d, and let them not desecrate His holy Name" (21:6).
The Yerushalmi cites a heretic, who queried the plural form of the word in Kedoshim (in the Pasuk "ki Elokim *Kedoshim* Hu"), implying that there are two gods (Chalilah). Back came the reply that since the word "Hu" is in the singular, the Pasuk is clearly referring to One G-d, and what the Pasuk means is that "He is the G-d of holy ones" (with reference to Yisrael, who are described as 'holy ones').
It follows therefore, that Yisrael must take extra care to fit that description. Otherwise, there will be no option but to interpret the Pasuk like the heretic did, causing a terrible Chilul Hashem.
And that, says the Yalkut Tov, quoting the early Toras Moshe, is what the above Pasuk has in mind when it writes … "They shall (take great care to) be holy for their G-d (in order) not to desecrate the Name of their G-d".
When Holy Ones Desecrate Holy Ones
"And they shall not desecrate the holy things/ones of B'nei Yisrael" (22:15).
The Gemara rules in Zevachim (3) that even though a Chatas that one Shechted as an Olah (say) is Pasul, if one Shechted it as Chulin, it remains Kasher. Why is that?
Because Kodshim desecrate Kodshim. Chulin do not!
If ordinary people (Chulin) treat Tzadikim (holy men) disrespectfully, their sanctity is not really desecrated. What is a desecration, says the Divrei Sha'arei Chayim, is when one Tzadik treats another Tzadik with disrespect, a desecration not only of the Tzadik's Kavod, but of Hashem's Kavod, too!
That is why it is of vital importance for Tzadikim to show each other the utmost respect and love. There is no bigger Kidush Hashem than that!
We Are Hashem's Children, Willy-Nilly.
"These Are the Festivals of Hashem, Holy Convocations, which You shall announce in their appropriate times" (23:4).
"You", the Gemara explains (playing on the word "Osom", which is written without a 'Vav', and can therefore be read 'Atem') even be'Shogeg'; even on purpose; even if you were misguided'.
One can learn a Kal-va'Chomer from here, the commentaries explain. If Chazal see fit to stress the word "Atem" (which is really written "Osom") to include even be'Shoge, even on purpose, and even if you were misguided'. Then how much more will they make this D'rashah on the Pasuk "Banim Atem la'Hashem Elokeichem" (You are sons of Hashem your G-d), where the Torah actually writes "Atem".
So the good news is that, even when we sin, 'be'Shogeg, be'Meizid or because we have been misguided, we are still
Olive Oil for the Menorah
"Command Yisrael and they shall bring to you pure olive oil" (24:2).
Rashi explains why the Torah repeats here the Mitzvah to donate olive-oil for the Menorah, even though it has already issued the same command in Parshas Tetzaveh (27:2 [see volume 8, where we discussed this matter at length]). The Chizkuni answers that the Torah repeats it here because Seifer Vayikra is the place where the Torah discusses all the Mishkan's utensils, the Korbanos, the appointment of the Kohanim and the separation of those who are Tamei and who are forbidden to enter the Mikdash and to eat Kodshim.
And it is in that vein that the Torah, having already taught us about the Ketores in Parshas Acharei-Mos, now teaches us about the arrangement of the Menorah and the Shulchan (which are actually interdependent, seeing as the purpose of the Menorah is to shed its light on the Lechem ha'Panim).
That being the case, he points out, the Torah should really have given precedence to the Shulchan with the Lechem ha'Panim, But it inverts them in order to juxtapose the Parshah of the man who cursed Hashem next to that of the Lechem ha'Panim (as Rashi explains).
Yom Kipur for Forty Years
"Outside the Curtain of Testimony in the Ohel Mo'ed Aharon shall arrange it from the evening until the morning (24:3).
Why, asks the Seforno, does the Torah confine the lighting of the Menorah here to Aharon, whereas in Tetzaveh, it also ascribes it his sons, Elazar & Isamar?
And he replies by citing the Pasuk in Pikudei "because the Cloud of Hashem was on the Mishkan by day …, indicating that during their traveling in the Desert, the Shechinah rested on the Camp, just like it did on Yom Kipur in future generations. Consequently, as long as they were in the desert, Aharon ha'Kohen made a point of burning the Ketores and kindling the Menorah himself, just like he did (and like the Kohen Gadol in subsequent generations would do) on Yom-Kipur.
It Must be Because G-d Loves Us
"And you shall place it on the pure Shulchan which is before Hashem" (24:6).
"Pure" implies that it can become Tamei, the Gemara in Chagigah extrapolates. This teaches us that they lifted up the steaming Loaves to show the pilgrims who came from Bavel, and announced 'See how much Hashem loves you. It (the Bread) is just as hot now, when it is removed from the Table, as it was when it was placed there (seven days earlier).
The question is asked as to why the pilgrims were shown specifically this miracle, when there were so many other miracles that took place in the Beis-Hamikdash, and which they could have shown them?
To answer this question, the Imrei Tzvi first cites the Gemara in Yuma (76), which gives two good reasons as to why the Mon fell each day instead of only once a year, which would have made life that much easier for the people: 1. This can be compared, says R. Shimon bar Yochai, to a king who had only one son, whose sustenance he initially supplied once annually. It struck him however, that his son was seeing him only once a year, so he changed his supply system, changing it to a daily basis, so that he could from now on, communicate with him daily. Here too; Had the Mon fallen once a year, a person with a large family would receive his annual ration at the beginning of each year, and there would be nothing to worry about. But now that it fell each day, he would worry what would happen if, Chas ve'Shalom, it failed to fall the following day. That thought alone would cause him to Daven to Hashem and strengthen his faith in Him, bringing him closer to Hashem each day (which the Gemara refers to as an improved system of communication).
2. In order to eat the Mon whilst it was still fresh.
The second reason, the Imrei Tzvi explains, is not such a good one, as we see from the Lechem ha'Panim, which, miraculously remained fresh for an entire week. What was to prevent the Mon from likewise falling once a year, and remaining fresh for the entire duration of that year?
Indeed, he concludes, the Kohanim would show the people the Shulchan with the Lechem ha'Panim each Yom-Tov, an indication that the reason for the Mon falling daily was not in order to eat fresh bread, but for the benefit of a daily communication with Hashem. And it is in that connection that they announced 'See how much Hashem loves You!'
This is reminiscent of the S'fas Emes' explanation, as to why G-d informed the Snake at the creation that it would eat dust all the days of its life. Surely, he asks, there is no greater blessing than having one's food available at all times?
On the contrary, he explains. There is no greater curse than being totally independent, to such an extent that one possesses all one's needs, and has no need to turn to G-d and Daven.
This is precisely what we just said. G-d demonstrated His love for our ancestors, by providing them with the Mon each day, in order to induce them to Daven to Him on a daily basis. That the Gemara calls an act of love. By the same token, depriving the snake of the need ever to communicate with Hashem, signifies the extent of His hatred towards it!
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Highlights from Targum Yonasan
"Because any man who has a blemish shall not come near; a man who is blind or lame, who has a wound on his nose or whose hip has become dislocated" (21:18).
"Or whose eyelashes cover his eyes or who has no eye-lashes at all, or one who has a snail-shaped growth in his eye which causes the white and the black of the eye to mix; one who is covered with dry boils … " (21:20).
"And the daughter of a Kohen who becomes either a widow or divorced and who has no child (from her ex-husband), shall return to her father's house like her childhood days, provided she is neither a Shomeres Yavam nor pregnant; she may eat her father's food (i.e. Terumah). But no stranger may eat it" (22:13).
"The time for You (Hashem) to remember for us the order of the Korbanos, that we used to bring each year and that would atone for our sins. But now that, on account of our sins, we can no longer bring from the flocks of our sheep, the ox was chosen by Him (Hashem) to recall the merits of the old man (Avraham) the prince who came from the east, and who sacrificed in Your Name a fat, tender bull. The ram was chosen second, to recall the merits of the 'lamb' (Yitzchak) who was bound on the Mizbei'ach, and who stretched out his neck for the sake of Your name. The angels descended, and Yitzchak saw their beauty and his eyes became dim. That is why he deserved merit and a ram was prepared to replace him as a burned-offering. A kid-goat was chosen third to recall the merits of the perfect one (Ya'akov) who prepared a kid-goat dish and brought it to his father, thereby meriting the order of B'rachos. That is why Moshe the prophet explained and said 'My people B'nei Yisrael, an ox, a lamb or a goat that is born by natural birth shall remain with its mother for seven days, to ascertain that it is not a miscarriage; and from the eighth day and onwards, it shall be accepted as a Korban for the sake of Hashem" (22:27).
* * *
Not to Steal.
*It is forbidden to steal somebody else's money (i.e. property)*, as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19/11) "Do not steal", which, as the Gemara in Sanhedrin (86a) explains, pertains to stealing money (as opposed to kidnapping mentioned in the Ten Commandments). The author already defined the Mitzvah in Mishpatim (Mitzvah 54).
*The reason for this Mitzvah* is well-known, as it a Mitzvah which is totally logical.
*Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah* … The Gemara in Bava Metzi'a forbids stealing, even if one intends to return the article, or if one's intention is merely to temporarily upset the owner (to tease him and to return the article later). And so the Sifra explains 'When the Torah writes in Mishpatim (22:3, in connection with theft) "he shall pay double to the owner", it teaches us the punishment; and we learn the warning from "Do not steal", incorporating stealing even if it is merely to tease the owner, or to return it four or five-fold … The Din of someone who steals a Sela from a fellow-Jew's purse or from his house and the Din of someone who returns it either with the owner's knowledge or without it, and when counting (on the part of the owner) exempts the thief from paying (should the article subsequently get lost again), and the distinction between an article that has life and one that does not, are all explained in the tenth chapter of Bava Kama (118b) … Chazal have said that one is not permitted to purchase from a thief, because this entails aiding and abetting a sinner. Likewise, one is not allowed to purchase an article that is assumed to be stolen. That is why Chazal (in Bava Kama, Chapter 10, Mishnah 9) forbid buying wool, milk or kid-goats from shepherds; or wood or fruit from people who are supposed to be guarding them, other than in a place where they are known to have permission to sell them. Nor may one purchase from women (who do not have their own property) from slaves or from small children whatever it is they are selling, other than goods that they are known to have permission to sell … On principle, the Chachamim say that wherever the seller requests that the sale is kept a secret, one may not buy from them … Neither did they include someone who purchases from an established thief in the Din of 'Takanas ha'Shuk' (a Takanah for the benefit of the innocent buyer) obligating him to return the stolen article to the original owner without payment. In the case of an un-known thief however, they did, requiring the buyer to return it only if the owner agrees to pay for his article, before taking the thief to Beis-Din to retrieve his money … The Rambam writes that whoever steals a P'rutah's-worth or more transgresses a La'av, as the Torah writes "Do not steal". He is not however, subject to Malkos, since it is a 'La'av ha'Nitak la'Asei' (a La'av that is connected to an Asei), which is not subject to Malkos). Nor does it make a difference whether one steals from a Jew or from a non-Jew, from a grown-up or from child … and other details concerning the Mitzvah, are discussed in the tenth chapter of Bava Kama and in other places (see Choshen Mishpat, Si'man 348).
*This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times*, to men and to women. Someone who contravenes it and steals is obliged to repay what he stole, as specified by the Torah . If he steals a Dinar, an article of clothing, a donkey or a camel, he must pay double, causing him to lose what he tried to make his victim lose. This ruling applies to everything, with the exception of an ox or a sheep, where in the event that he Shechted or sold it, the thief pays four or five-fold, as the Torah specifically writes. The fines of double and four or five-fold however, will apply only if witnesses testify against him, and Beis-Din subsequently sentence to pay. If he admits guilt of his own volition, then he pays the amount that he stole and is exempt from the K'nas (the fine). The Gemara in Bava Kama (64b) extrapolates this from the Pasuk in Mishpatim (22:8) "the one whom the judges sentence shall pay double"; to preclude one who sentences himself (by virtue of his admission) to pay - and this extends to all cases of K'nas. The author has already informed us earlier that all Dinim of K'nas apply only in Eretz Yisrael (when the Sanhedrin functions), but not nowadays.