Shabbat Zachor - This Shabbat we will read an extra portion of Torah
which commands us to remember what Amalek did to us and our obligation to
wipe him out. All men are required to hear this special reading and
women should also try to fulfill this obligation. |
Pop Quiz: How did the slaughtering of a bird korban differ from other
Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
1. When the day after tomorrow is yesterday, today will be as far from Wednesday as today was from Wednesday when the day before yesterday was tomorrow. What is the day after this day?
2. Haman had to rush to make it on time to the palace for Esther's party. He grabbed a t-shirt and put it on inside-out, with his left arm in the right sleeve and his right arm in the left sleeve. Where is the label?
a. outside back
3. Professor Herring just returned from a six month vacation in the Middle East. In one of the lectures she gave, she said the highlight of the trip was seeing many of the ancient artifacts first hand. She made mention of having seen several mummies and tapestries dating as far back as 200 B.C. She claimed to have seen coins dated 46 B.C., and weapons made of metal from approximately 500 B.C. What is wrong with Professor Herring's claims?
4. Captain Frank went to the hardware store to make a purchase for his house. He asked the clerk, "How much will one cost?" The clerk thought for a moment and said, "Three dollars." Captain Frank, who looked a little puzzled said, "Well then, how much will twelve cost?" "Six dollars," replied the clerk. Captain Frank scratched his head and said, "If I were to purchase two hundred, how much would that cost?" "That," said the clerk, "will cost you nine dollars." What was Captain Frank buying?
Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Therefore the Jews shall make the day of the 14th of Adar as a day of happiness, drinking, holiday and sending of gifts each man to his friend" (Megillat Esther 9:19)
Purim is usually thought of as a day of simhah, happiness, and enjoyable times. However, our Sages teach us that actually it is a very holy day. Throughout the year we give charity only to those who deserve it. On Purim, everyone who opens his hand is to receive, even those not deserving. We are also told that this doesn't only apply to charity, but to anyone who "stretches out his hand," that if we open our hands in prayer, Hashem answers, even if we don't deserve. That's why Yom Kippur is compared to Purim! For just as we have a great opportunity to be answered on Purim, so too on Yom Kippur!
If all this is true, why do we spend this holy day running around delivering gift packages, eating a festive meal with meat and wine? To top it all, we consume enough alcohol to confuse our minds, and sing and dance. Shouldn't we be using this day in prayer and study?
The Hidushei Harim (quoted by Rabbi Uri Pearson) explains with a story. Once there was a Jew who was on his way to do a sin. He took with him a large sum of money that he had saved to do this sin. Along the way he heard a great commotion and saw a large crowd crying in anguish. When he asked what happened he was told that there were a number of Jewish families who couldn't pay their rent. The gentile governor threw them in the dungeon, putting them through terrible tortures. The man's heart ached and he asked how much was needed to free them. As soon as he realized he had enough money, he gave it all away to free them. This pure act caused a tremendous tumult in the heavens. If such a simple unprincipled man had given away money he had accumulated to fulfill his desire to sin to help Jews he didn't know, he had to be rewarded. It was decided that he should be given the power to bless people, and whatever the blessing, it would be fulfilled. However, there was fear he might misuse this gift, like to revive the dead or other things the world wasn't ready for yet. They therefore decreed that he should have a tremendous craving for whiskey so he would be constantly drunk and in a stupor, unable to misuse the power.
Years later a terrible decree was made in heaven and the prayers of the greatest sadikim couldn't break it. The greatest Rabbi sent two of his students to find the drunk man and elicit a blessing from him. They found him rolling in the gutter completely drunk. They pulled him over and waited until he got sober, and before he could take another drink, they got the blessing and annulled the decree.
Our day of Purim is similar to that drunkard. On this holy day, all that we pray for is fulfilled. But in order that we shouldn't misuse this power, Hashem gave us a commandment to drink. This will keep us busy with drinking and make us forget about the power we have.
There is no doubt that if a person fulfills the words of the Sages and only drinks on Purim and fulfills the misvot, he will not lose. Hashem gets the most pleasure from a person who just fulfills Hashem's will and forgets about his own needs. But since it is difficult to drink totally for the sake of the misvah, how can we fulfill the misvah of drinking and also take advantage of the opportunity for prayer. The best suggestion is to pray early on Purim day. Use the early hours to pray and study Torah, using the remainder of the day for the misvot, and of course, to drink and celebrate. May Hashem answer all our prayers on this special day, Amen. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"He called to Moshe." (Vayikra 1:1)
The first word of this week's perashah, Vayikra, is written with a small alef at the end. The Rabbis tell us that this was a compromise between Hashem and Moshe. When Hashem called out to Moshe, which signifies a very special honor, Moshe, who was extremely humble, didn't want to write it that way. He asked Hashem whether he could skip the alef and write vayikar, which means "He chanced" upon Moshe. Hashem said, "No, but you may write it with a small letter."
With this, we can understand a very amazing Midrash. We know that Moshe had rays of light shining from his face. The Midrash says that this came about when Moshe took the leftover ink from his quill and put it on his face. It gave him a special light. What ink was left over, and how could ink produce light? In a homiletic approach we can understand it based on the previous thought. Moshe was a self-effacing, extremely humble person. He wanted to make sure that no attention is called to his greatness. Therefore, he wanted to write vayikar, and finally wrote vayikra with a small alef. When a person makes himself smaller, he eventually becomes greater, because people who are humble are those we appreciate and acknowledge. This was the light on Moshe's face. Those that toot their own horns, however, are usually known as precisely that: people who make a lot of noise.
We know many people who suffer from "I" trouble, always punctuating their sentences with "I" this and "I" that. We also know those who are quiet, self-effacing, looking to stay out of the limelight. We know whom we'd rather be with. That's also who we should try to be. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim
On the verse, "My offering, My bread for My fire-offerings, My pleasing smell," Rabbi Yehudah Halevi asks: in what sense are sacrifices G-d's "bread," and how do they provide Him a "pleasing smell"?
Rabbi Yehudah Halevi answers, when man's body is healthy and functions properly, when the system operates in the way it was meant to, then his intellect functions properly, as well. But when the body is ailing and injured, when its various systems do not supply the rest of the body in the ways they normally do, this irregularity affects the person's mind. For instance, a sick man who has no appetite cannot think as clearly as a healthy man who eats heartily. However, it is not food that directly activates the brain. The digestive system first breaks down the food into its components, which are then used by the other systems of the body to keep the organism as a whole, including the brain, functioning properly. When all the parts of the body function harmoniously, the brain, that amazing control center, can exercise control over them. When the body does not function properly, the brain is like a conductor without an orchestra. This can be compared to a flame. A flame is something spiritual and intangible. But it requires oil, a wick, and a spark. Without the necessary material components, arranged properly with the wick drawing oil, it cannot exist.
So it is with sacrifices. The physical act of offering the sacrifice makes the desire to change have a lasting impact upon us. It causes a rearrangement of our inner world and the system by which the soul operates inside us. This allows us to renew our relationship with G-d on a different basis, which then leads to a reaction on G-d's part: He allows His Divine Presence to descend. The fire on the Altar lights the wick of our soul. The "pleasing smell" is the satisfaction G-d derives from a Jew who performs His will, from a Jew who puts his righteous thought into action. Let us commit ourselves firmly to performing the commandments and doing those acts which radiate life to all the parts of our body. Shabbat Shalom.
"If a man from among you would bring an offering to Hashem" (Vayikra 1:2)
It is difficult to define the word korban in order to adequately express the underlying concepts. The unfortunate use of the term "sacrifice" implies giving up something which is of value to one individual for the benefit of another, or of living without something of value. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch remarks that these ideas are not only absent from the nature of a korban, but they are diametrically opposed to it. Likewise, the definition "offering" does not really define this word. The idea of an offering suggests that it fulfills a requirement mandated by the One to Whom this korban is brought, and that He, in turn, is satisfied by the offering alone. The idea behind a korban, however, is conceptually distinct from all this. The underlying notion behind a korban relates exclusively to man's relationship with Hashem. This is reflected in its root form, "kareb" (to approach, to come near). This concept immediately gives the idea of the direct purpose of the korban as the attainment of a higher sphere of life. Thus, this description rejects the previous two definitions of sacrifice and offering, depicting the one who brings the korban as one who seeks to find inspiration from the korban. He aspires for a part of himself to come closer to Hashem. This is the purpose of his korban. (Peninim on the Torah)
"If a man from among you would bring an offering" (Vayikra 1:2)
Rashi explains that the term "adam" implies that just as Adam, the first created man, did not bring stolen animals as an offering (because everything belonged to him), no one should bring offerings from stolen property. However, the Gemara derives from the word "mikem" that it must be "from your own property." Why does Rashi derive this from the word "adam"?
Indeed, the prohibition to offer stolen material as a sacrifice is easily derived from the word "mikem." However, Rashi is referring to another sort of stealing.
There are people who commit sins and immediately run to make an offering to Hashem so that they will be considered very meticulous and pious. With their offering they hope to "steal the minds of people" and to create the false impression that they are not ordinary Torah violators. Rashi addresses this behavior and says that we can learn its impropriety from Adam.
When Adam was created he built an altar and brought an offering to Hashem on it. At that time there was no one in the world who he had to impress or deceive, so obviously his actions were totally for Hashem's sake. Similarly, we should learn from Adam that our deeds should be sincere and without ulterior motives. (Vedibarta Bam)
"They should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions to one another, and gifts to the poor" ( Esther 9:22)
Why did Mordechai institute this as a way to celebrate the miracle of Purim?
Haman complained to Ahashverosh about the Jewish people that though they were only one nation among many nations, they were "mefuzar umeforad ben ha'amim - in total disharmony among themselves." They lacked love and compassion for their fellow Jews. To counteract this claim, Esther said to Mordechai, "Go gather together all the Jews" (4:6), and stress to them the importance of unity and love.
Since the decree was caused by Haman's allegation that there was disunity among the Jewish people, Mordechai instituted that on Purim we exchange edibles with friends and give gifts to the poor to demonstrate our love for one another. (Vedibarta Bam)
ANSWERS TO PURIM RIDDLES:
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