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Vol. 13 No. 36
Gitel bas Chaneh z.l.
The Purim Rav
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)
"Separate from this wicked congregation!" (16:21).
When the Gaon, R. Yechiel Mordechai Gordon, the Rosh Yeshivah of Lomza (who later headed the Lomza Yeshivah in Petach Tikvah) came to visit Eretz Yisrael, he was most perturbed by the sharp rift that existed between the followers of R. Kook (who adopted the policy of compromise, in their efforts to bring the Chilonim back to a lifestyle of Torah and Mitzvos), and those of R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld (who scorned the Chilonim's secular lifestyle and fought tooth and nail to retain Chareidi independence). He decided therefore, to attempt to bridge the gap between the two sides, notwithstanding many other Gedolei Yisrael who had tried to do so but failed. To this end, he arranged separate meetings with R. Kook and R. Yosef Chayim, both of whom treated the renowned Gadol, one of the leading Roshei Yeshivos of Litta, with the deepest respect.
He first met with R. Kook, who described 'in his philosophical way' the wonderful relationship that he enjoyed with the members of the Chiloni camp. And he explained how he put that relationship to good use by bringing back lost souls, who had inadvertently strayed from the right path. And he portrayed the best in them, by pointing out their tremendous self-sacrifice to rebuild the land from the ruins.
Then he met with R. Yosef Chayim, whose sparkling eyes, he later stated, did not drop even a shadow of a hint that he was in the presence of one of the toughest and most powerful men of the generation, who fought for his spiritual beliefs with superhuman tenacity.
Drawing on his expertise, in his capacity as one of the most outstanding Ba'alei Musar, Lithuanian style, R. Gordon began to elaborate on the importance of forming a united front to combat the secular Zionists' efforts to turn Eretz Yisrael into a nation like other nations. This was the only way of defeating them, he insisted. Inter alia, he referred to the miracle of historical proportions that was unfolding in Eretz Yisrael, in that the process of the return to our land had begun, with the consent of the nations of the world, in the form of the Balfour Declaration which permitted the Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael. And he even went so far as to volunteer to act as the go-between to bring the two sides together.
All this time, R. Yosef Chayim sat calmly on his chair, paying rapt attention to every word of the Lomza Rosh Yeshivah. He realized that the latter's heartfelt words were sparked off by a deep pain and sadness at the success of the Satan in splitting the Chareidi community, who, in all other matters, were guided by the truth and by the Torah's instructions. And that is why he allowed him to speak without interruption until he had finished all that he had to say.
Despite his reputation as a man who had never lost a debate, he made no effort to reply. Instead, all he said was that even though he was crowned as Rav of the Eidah ha'Chareidis, he was really more like a Purim Rav. But the Rosh Yeshivah failed to understand what he meant, so he proceeded to elaborate ...
In Pressburg, it seems, the Minhag by the Rav's Rebbe the K'sav Sofer and by his father, the Chasam Sofer, had been to arrange with one learned Halachic authority to fulfill the Mitzvah of 'ad de'lo yada' on Purim by sleeping instead of drinking wine, as was the accepted custom. This would enable him to deal with all Halachic queries that may arise in town, since all the other Rabbis who drank wine were disqualified from issuing Halachic rulings. That Halachic authority was known as the Purim Rav.
And that, R. Yosef Chayim concluded, was his chief task, with regard to the title of Rav of the Chareidi community that had been thrust upon him against his will. The Balfour Declaration (to which the Rosh Yeshivah had referred) had gone to the heads of the communal leaders, and seems to have adversely affected the minds of even the best Rabbanim, who perceived in the Zionist State the beginning of the Redemption. In their drunkenness, they saw only the material advantages of statehood, but failed to grasp the spiritual dangers that such a state would pose.
The Rav paused for a moment, to maintain control over the storm that raged within him. Then he continued, pointing out that only he, it seemed, had remained sufficiently sober to realize that the danger of secular Zionism, whose leaders had broken away from our connections with Sinai and from everything that linked Yisrael to their past, was the gravest that had ever threatened our people since we stood at Har Sinai.
And, he continued, those Rabbanim who, in their enthusiasm, backed this quest for physical freedom at the expense of spiritual freedom, were guilty of assisting sinners. In their naivet?, they were becoming partners in the crime of mass Sh'mad, which was currently being perpetrated by the Histadrut against those who had barely survived the sword in Europe and who were battling to remain part of the chain that went back to Har Sinai.
Indeed, when a prominent Zionist leader asked him why he did not rejoice at the news of the Balfour Declaration, R. Yosef Chayim replied with the words 'The drunkard wonders and expresses surprise why the person who is sober does not revel together with him in his drunkenness. The answer is that I am not drunk, and that is why I see no reason to rejoice'.
The Lomza Rosh Yeshivah left the Rav without having achieved his aim. H did not bridge the gap between the two parties, but he took leave of the Gaon, content in the knowledge that the Chareidi camp was being led by a competent leader whom Divine Providence had blessed with all the necessary tools that are needed to fight its battles. And he realized that there is a time to compromise, but that in this instance, it was time to "separate from this wicked congregation!'
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the Parah Adumah
The Medrash ascribes Korach's challenge to Moshe to the Parah Adumah.
To explain this Medrash P'li'ah, the P'ninim Yekarim cites another Medrash, which attributes Moshe's attempt to attain pardon on behalf of K'lal Yisrael for the sin of the Golden Calf, to the singular form used in the Ten Commandments. This is most certainly an indication, he argues, that they were said to him alone, and not to the rest of Yisrael, who should therefore be absolved from punishment.
But then Korach heard the Parshah of Parah Adumah, which came to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, as Rashi explains in Parshas Chukas. In that case, Moshe's 'excuse', that the Ten Commandments had not been said to K'lal Yisrael, was no longer necessary (nor was it valid). That is why he now argued that the entire congregation, who all heard Hashem's Voice at Har Sinai, were no less holy than Moshe.
"And Moshe heard and he fell on his face" (16:4)
The Gemara in Sanhedrin explains that what Moshe heard was the accusation by Korach and his men that he was guilty of having an affair with a married woman.
Where is this hinted, asks the Mishk'nos Ya'akov ha'Sefardi? And he points to the words of Korach "because the entire congregation is holy".
The Shulchan Aruch rules that if someone says to his friend during the course of an argument 'I am not a Rasha' it is considered by implication, as if he had called him a Rasha.
Here too, when Korach said to Moshe "because the entire congregation is holy", he implied that Moshe was not holy (though that is not how most commentaries explain it), and as we know, the opposite of holy is adulterous (see Rashi at the beginning of 'Kedoshim'). He was therefore hinting that Moshe was guilty of adulterous behaviour.
A Tzadik's Rebuke
"Enough for you, B'nei Levi" (16:7).
Korach was smart, Rashi points out. So, what did he see to do such a foolish thing? Korach knew, he explains, that Shmuel (who would be compared to Moshe and Aharon) was destined to descend from him, and it was on Shmuel's merit that he thought he would be spared.
But he did not see well. What he failed to see was that his sons would do Teshuvah (and it was on their merit that Shmuel descended from him).
The question arises what caused Korach's sons to repent with a full heart, and why was Korach unable to foresee that?
The answer lies in the fact that the words of a Tzadik never go to waste. Consequently, Moshe's call to do Teshuvah had to take effect, if not on Korach, then on his children.
That is how R. Tzadok ha'Kohen explains the Gemara in B'rachos (6b) 'Whoever possesses the Fear of G-d, his words will be heard' and it bases this on the Pasuk at the end of Koheles "Ultimately, everything will be heard and G-d will be feared ... " (P'ninim Yekarim).
On the one hand therefore, seeing as Korach remained unaffected by Moshe's words, Korach's sons were bound to be affected by them. On the other, the possibility of this happening never occurred to Korach, since he denied Moshe's greatness, in which case, as far as he was concerned, his words did not necessarily need to take effect at all.
Not Too Smart
The Gemara in B'rachos (31b) informs us that Chanah prayed for her son (Shmuel) to be neither wise nor stupid.
We can understand why she did not want a stupid son. But a wise one?
A certain Gadol once explained that Chanah saw her ancestor Korach, whose smartness proved to be his undoing. So she decided that she didn't want a son who took after his great great-grandfather. Better a bit less smart and a bit more ehrlich!
It's Worth Another Try
"And Moshe sent for Dasan and Aviram" (16:12).
From here we see, says Rashi, that one does not support Machlokes (disputes).
Rashi's statement reads 'she'Ein Machzikin be'Machlokes'.
R. Yitzchak from Verke translates the phrase differently. From here we see, he says, that when it comes to Machlokes, there is no such thing as Chazakah. In other words, a person may not say 'I've tried to make up so many times, it's clear that nothing will work!'
However many times one has tried to make peace, it's always worth another try.
That's why Moshe called Dasan and Aviram, in another attempt to convince them that all of their efforts were futile.
Incidentally, this only applies to a Machlokes between two Jews, not to Yisrael and their enemies. In that connection, Moshe Rabeinu sent each of the Cana'ani nations one letter, with the option of either accepting his peace terms, running away or fighting. There was no second chance, and once a nation decided to fight, it was a fight to the finish.
A Most Dangerous Sin
"If these people die like everybody else ... then G-d did not send me. But if He invents a new invention, and the ground opens its mouth ... " (16:29/30).
Whenever Yisrael sinned, Moshe was there to fill in the breach and to pray on behalf of the sinners. There is only one exception, the Torah ve'ha'Mitzvah observes, and that is here, where he not only declined to pray on behalf of Korach and his men, but he prayed for their demise!
What is the reason for this, he asks? Can it possibly be because it was his honour and that of his brother that was at stake? Is it really feasible to say that Moshe, the 'Anav mi'Kol Adam' was more concerned about his own Kavod than that of Hashem, Chas ve'Shalom?
The answer is 'No, of course not'.
Moshe's stand was based on totally different considerations. What worried Moshe was Korach's attack on Ma'amad Har Sinai, on which the integrity of Torah depended. For if, as Korach maintained, Moshe was not appointed G-d's emissary regarding the Kehunah, then every Mitzvah that Moshe had commanded was subject to scrutiny and rejection too. Korach was not querying one detail of the Torah, he was rocking the entire boat; he was casting aspersions on everything that Moshe Rabeinu had ever achieved, creating the possibility that it was the will of Moshe, but not of G-d.
And the test that he picked to prove his point, proves beyond any shadow of doubt, that this was indeed the essence of his concern. Indeed, his words prior to the opening of the ground corroborated it. And the extreme punishment that he called for in the event that Hashem had indeed sent him and that Korach was lying, demonstrates the seriousness of the sin in his eyes.
The Kohen Takes Both
"But you shall surely redeem the firstborn of man ... " (18:15).
The term "you shall surely redeem" is "padoh sifdeh". The only other time the word "padoh" appears in T'nach is in Tehilim (49:8)", where it says "Ach lo padoh yifdeh ish".
This hints, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, at the ruling by R. Yehoshua, that if a sheep gives birth for the first time to two male lambs, both lambs are considered Bechorim and must be given to the Kohen. That is why the Pasuk in Tehilim intimates indirectly that one brother does not redeem the other (but both must be given to the Kohen).
No Land for the Levi
"And Hashem said to Aharon 'In their land you will not inherit and a portion will not be for you in their midst. I am your portion ... " (18:20).
The Or ha'Chachim, quoting a Sifri, explains that the Torah repeats the command, to teach us that not only does a Levi not receive an official portion in Eretz Yisrael, but that he does not receive one, even if B'nei Yisrael decide that they want to give it to him. He is is obliged to politely decline their offer.
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AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article
reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch
and are not necessarily Halachah.
The T'cheiles that we have been commanded to add to our Tzitzis resembles the sky when it is clear. It is made from the blood of a fish called 'Chilazon', which resembles the sea in colour and which is to be found in the Salt Sea (yes, that's what the Chinuch says!) and used to dye woolen threads for Tzitzis. For many years now we have never heard of anyone who merited having T'cheiles on his Tallis (the author wrote this some seven hundred years ago) ... The dyeing must be performed specifically for the sake of the Mitzvah, and so must the spinning of both the T'cheiles and the white threads ... One cannot spin woollen strands that were caught on thorns whilst the sheep was crouching or from strands that have been detached from the animals back; neither can one use tufts of wool from the weft of the weaving loom which the weaver left over when he completed the garment, nor may one use stolen wool or wool from an Ir ha'Nidachas' (whose inhabitants were put to death because they worshipped idols) or that belonged to Hekdesh. Tzitzis manufactured from any of the above are Pasul, and so are Tzitzis woven by a gentile, as the Pasuk writes in Sh'lach Lecha "Speak to B'nei Yisrael ... and they shall manufacture (B'nei Yisrael, but not gentiles)". Tzitzis that were made by a Yisrael without Kavanah for the Mitzvah however, are Kasher Bedieved ... The author heard from authoritative sources that women are not eligible to make Tzitzis ... How does one make Tzitzis? One passes four threads through a hole in the corner of the garment, making eight ends when they hang from the corner. The hole must be no less than a Gudal (the length of the thumb from the top of the nail until the joint) from the edge of the garment, as specified by the Gemara in Menachos (42a) ... One arranges for one of the threads to be longer than the others, in order to wind it round them. In the process of winding, one ties five double knots. Between each two sets of knots, one winds the long thread three times, four times in the middle, making a total of thirteen rings (this is not the generally accepted Minhag nowadays) ... the threads should be sufficiently long to enable two thirds of the length to be 'Anaf' (plain threads without rings and knots) and one third, besides the one third G'dil (with rings and knots). This is how it should be done Lechatchilah. Bedi'eved however, the Tzitzis are Kasher, even if one arranged only one ring. And they are also Kasher Bedieved if the threads faded, leaving only enough to tie a bow. If however, even one thread tears off completely, they are Pasul ... Someone who owns a garment of four corners which he is not wearing, is Patur from fixing Tzitzis on it, since the Halachah is like Rav, who rules in Menachos (42a) that Tzitzis is an obligation on the person vis-a`-vis the garment he is wearing, and not on a garment that is lying in a box. In fact, the Gemara adds, no matter how many garments he has stored away in a box, as long as he has no intention of wearing them, they do not require Tzitzis ... Someone who wears a linen garment, must attach linen Tzitzis. This is because the Halachah is not like Beis Shamai, who exempts linen from Tzitzis, because (seeing as T'cheiles is by definition dark blue wool), it is impossible to avoid wearing Sha'atnez, and a garment that is exempt from T'cheiles, is exempt from white threads, too. The Halachah however, is like Beis Hillel, who learn (S'muchin) - from the Torah's juxtaposition of Tzitzis next to Sha'atnez, that where necessary, the former overrides the latter. (cont.)
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