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Vol. 5 No. 11
Torah-study has Priority
Twice in this parshah, we see demonstrated the high priority that Ya'akov and his sons placed on the study of Torah.
The first occasion was when Yosef ultimately informed his father Ya'akov that he was alive and well in Egypt. In fact, Chazal explain, when Ya'akov received this verbal information from Yosef, he failed to believe it; it was only when he saw the wagons (which Yosef had sent his aging father to transport him to Egypt) that his spirit was revived.
Chazal interpret the significance of the wagons as a hint to the last topic that Ya'akov had taught his son before he was sold. The word 'aggoloh' (wagon) is synonymous with that of 'calf', and it referred to the Parshah of the broken-necked calf in 'Ki Seitzei'. It was only when Ya'akov Ovinu was informed that what was uppermost in Yosef's mind, was the Torah that he had taught him, that he was happy that Yosef was still alive.
He may well have accepted the reality of Yosef's physical existence immediately, particularly as his grand-daughter, Serach (Osher's daughter) had already informed him that Yosef was alive. But if Yosef had succumbed to the terrible influences of the most pervert society in the world, if he had adopted the Egyptian way of life, then Ya'akov had no reason to rejoice. Yosef may as well have been dead, since a live body serves no purpose when it contains a dead soul. It is like a living corpse! It was therefore his spiritual existence that he initially doubted, and it was of that spiritual existence of which he was now reassured.
And that is perhaps what the brothers meant when they said: "Yosef is still alive, and he is ruling over the land of Egypt". Not only was he still alive, but he ruled over the Egyptians; in other words, it was he who controlled and influenced them, teaching them to curb their desires (inherent in the bris milah which he had ordered them to perform), and not they who ruled over him. But Ya'akov did not believe them; he did not deem it possible for a young lad of seventeen, all alone, to survive spiritually for twenty-two years in such an evil society; he was convinced that Yosef must have succumbed to the numerous temptations that confronted him - until he saw the wagons! If Torah was still uppermost in Yosef's mind to the extent that he not only remembered the last lesson that his father had taught him, but he also chose it as his first communication with him ( as if to suggest that he was ready to carry on where they had left off), then Ya'akov knew that the brothers had not made a mistake. Yosef was alive, in body and in soul! "And Ya'akov's spirit was revived!"
The second occasion - that we find Ya’akov putting the priority on Torah-study -was when he sent Yehudah on ahead, to prepare for the family's arrival in Egypt. The Medrash explains the relevant possuk to mean that he ordered him to prepare a place of Torah-study, so that 'instruction would emerge from there'. Ya'akov's main worry was that, when they arrived in Egypt, they should not have to begin searching for a suitable site for a Yeshiva. We find a similar thought expressed by Chazal, who point out that Hashem deliberately exiled the Sanhedrin and the Sages (during the era of the Babylonian exile) before the rest of the people went into exile to ensure that, by the time the rest of Klal Yisroel arrived in Babylon some eleven years later, Yeshivos had already been established in Bovel, and Torah was ready to flourish there - as indeed it would for close to a thousand years. Ya'akov anticipated the problems which were bound to arise should they attempt to settle down in a new country, and at the same time set about establishing a Yeshiva. The obstacles in trying to build the two simultaneously would have been virtually insurmountable, so he took the more important issue under his own personal supervision - namely, that of establishing the Yeshiva, relying entirely upon Yosef to organise the family's private accommodation.
About The Mitzvos
The value of a mitzvah cannot be fully appreciated in this world, but the extent of its pricelessness is inherent in the saying of Chazal: 'There is no reward for the performing of a mitzvah in *this* world' (Kiddushin 39b). There is simply no currency in this physical world of limitations to pay for a spiritual mitzvah of unlimited value.
We can illustrate this with the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos (4:17), which writes that one hour of pleasure in the World to Come is better than all of the life in this world. However one interprets this, it is truly mind-boggling and, by whatever standards one measures fun and enjoyment, it portrays Olom ha'Bo as something totally desirable. And, if one single mitzvah results in one hour of such intense unimaginable pleasure, it elevates mitzvos to such a high degree of importance that every other venture outside the realm of Torah and mitzvos shrinks to insignificance.
The moshol is given of a native African travelling on an ocean liner to Europe. Suddenly a girl fell overboard and, on impulse, he jumped overboard and saved her from drowning.
The girl was none other than a princess, daughter of one of the European kings. Upon hearing how the African had saved his daughter's life, the king summoned him to the palace and, as a reward for his bravery, he was given a sack, placed in the king's treasury, and given one hour to help himself to whatever valuables he wished.
Unfortunately, the African, who did not understand a single word of what was being said, and believing that, for some unaccountable reason, he was being punished for some trumped-up crime, declined to accept his 'punishment', and, apart from the few pieces that he picked up and threw into the sack, in a show of pretence to conform with his sentence, his sack remained empty.
Imagine his chagrin, when he discovered later the vast fortune that could have been his, measured against the few precious objects that he casua;;y collected!
Hashem has placed us here in this world, and because He loves us and wants us to make the most of our brief spell here, He gave us a lot of mitzvos - to fill our sacks with as many of them as we possibly can during our short stay here.
But what do we do? Thinking that this is some form of punishment, we squander the opportunity granted to us to amass a large fortune of priceless gems. Instead of running to perform every mitzvah that comes our way, instead of searching every nook and cranny for new mitzvos that have not - to make the sack fuller, and fuller, and fuller - we run away from the mitzvos as if they were some sort of plague!
Like the African, we perceive the mitzvos as if they were some form of punishment, instead of the wonderful reward that they really are. And like the African, we do not - or we do not want to - understand the language ion which Hashem speaks to us, and beckons to us to amass a fortune.
THE MITZVOS OF TODAY
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.
10. To put Tzitzis on the corners of our garments - as the Torah writes (Ba'midbor 15:38) "And they shall make for themselves Tzitzis on the corners of their garments". A garment that a person wears by day requires Tzitzis by Torah-law - provided it has at least four square corners, provided that is is sufficiently large to cover the head and most of the body of a small child who has reached the age that he can go unaccompanied into the street, and provided that it is made of wool or linen. A garment made of other materials is obligated to have Tzitzis attached, mi’de’Rabbonon.
Someone who covers himself with a 'Tallis' of four corners that does not have Tzitzis, has negated a positive mitzvah. A child who knows how to put on a Tallis godol, is obligated by Rabbinic law to wear Tzitzis - not that he has to wear a garment of four corners, but that, if he is wearing a garment of four corners, Tzitzis should be attached to it (as is the Din by a grown-up).
One should take great care to fulfill the mitzvah of Tzitzis properly, since the Torah weighs it up against all the other mitzvos and connects all the other mitzvos to it, as it writes in Bamidbor (15:39) "And you shall see them, and you will remember all the mitzvos of Hashem".
The mitzvah of Tzitzis applies everywhere, at all times, to men but not to women.
11. To read the Shema morning and evening - as the Torah writes in Devorim (6:7) "And you shall speak about them... and when you lie down and when you get up", meaning at the time of lying down (at night-time) and at the time of getting-up (in the morning). The mitzvah pertains to the three parshiyos of "Shema", "ve'hoyo im shomo'a" and "va'yomer".
The reason for these three parshiyos is because "Shema" contains the unification of G-d's Name and His love, and the mitzvah of Torah-study, the linch-pin around which everything else swivels. "Ve'hoyo im shomo'a" contains the acceptance of the yoke of all the other mitzvos, whereas "Va'yomer", which is the Parshah of Tzitzis, contains a reminder of all the mitzvos, as well as the fulfillment of the mitzvah of remembering the Exodus from Egypt, as the Torah writes in Devorim (16:3) "In order that you shall remember (mention) the day that you left the land of Egypt all the days of your life".
This mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times, to men, but not to women.
12. To fix a Mezuzah at the entrance to one's house - as the Torah writes in Devorim (6:9) "And you shall write them on the door-posts of your house and of your gates". The Mezuzah contains two of the parshiyos contained in the Tefillin, "Shema" and "Ve'hoyo im shomo'a".
(When the Torah writes 'house', it incorporates 'room'. Consequently, every room in the house - with the exception of the bathroom etc. - requires a Mezuzah on its right door-post. Yard and garden gates too, require a Mezuzah, provided they serve an inhabited dwelling, as well as the gates of the city, because the Torah writes "and on your gates". Only an entrance with two door-posts and a lintel requires a Mezuzah, and, according to some, only when there is also a door.
The obligation to fix the Mezuzah lies with the person who currently lives in the house, not with the owner.)
Mezuzah too, is a mitzvah which one should take great care to perform properly. Every time that one enters or leaves the house, he comes across the unification of Hashem, and remembers his love, and this causes him to 'wake up from his sleep and his errors of the stupidities of the times. And he will know that there is nothing worthwhile and lasting in this world other than the knowledge of G-d. This will bring him to his senses and will result in his going along the straight road.'
This mitzvah applies everywhere, at all times, to men and to women alike.
History of the World ( Part 39)
Tzadok is the Cohen Godol and Ido and Achiyoh ha'Shiloni are the prophets. 60,000 guests eat at Shlomoh's table. Shlomoh institutes Eiruvin, washing the hands for Kodshim and shniyos la'arayos (certain cases of rabbinically-ordained forbidden marriages). He sends Benoyohu ben Yehoyodo to bring him the shomir worm (for cutting the stones for the Beis ha'Mikdosh).
Shlomoh's throne is a remarkable invention, with gadgets way ahead of its time. It has six steps all set in precious stones and white pearls. Date-palms adorn it and there are two gold stones, one on either side of the throne, filled with a variety of spices. On each step there is a lion and an eagle, one on either side of the step; and on the foot of each of the lions is written one of the pesukim which warn the judges about the performance of justice. A system of wheels at the back of the throne cause the lions to stretch out their feet, and the eagles their wings, to support the king as he begins to ascend the throne. When he reaches the top, a silver serpent places him on the throne.
A marble slab lies across the heads of the two lions on the top step, and in between is a dove, which places a Sefer-Torah in his lap after he is seated. The lion on the left-hand side then arranges the crown on the king's head and the eagles spread their wings over their heads to form a protective covering for the king.
In addition to the above, on each step there is a kosher animal on one side and a wild beast on the other: on the first step there is an ox on one side and a lion on the other; on the second step, a lamb opposite a wolf; on the third step, a kid-goat opposite a leopard; on the fourth, a deer and a bear; and on the fifth, a bird and an eagle. The king ascends between them to hint at his role as a peacekeeper (as is inherent in Shlomoh's name).
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