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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream, and he will produce to you a sign or a wonder. (13:2)

The Torah addresses us concerning the navi sheker, false prophet. Although the Torah refers to him as a prophet, he certainly is not one. As the Ramban explains, this is a term by which he refers to himself. He is a prophet in his own mind. The cholem chalom, the individual who presents a dream-- through which he seeks to incite the people against Hashem-- is no different. Anything that serves as a vehicle for turning Jews away from the Almighty is absolutely false. Dreams do, however, have validity. We will see certain episodes whose halachic implications are based upon the support rendered by a dream.

In his Zos HaTorah, Horav Eliyahu Schlessinger, Shlita cites the following incidents in which a dream played a crucial role. Horav Meir Simcha HaKohen, zl, m'Dvinsk, author of the Ohr Sameach and Meshech Chochmah, writes in his commentary to Parashas Kedoshim, Vayikra 19:9, "This (explanation) is from a dream." This is what gedolei Yisrael dreamed about: a question on Tosfos; a difficulty in the Yerushalmi; understanding a Rambam. Their lives were bound up in the Torah; their entire subconscious minds were suffused in Torah. Is it any wonder that when they "slept" their thoughts gravitated to what was important in their lives? Furthermore, their dreams served as a medium of communication with the Eternal World of Truth.

Horav Nachum Baruch Ginzberg, zl, author of the Mekor Baruch, writes in the preface to his magnum opus that once, upon visiting the Ohr Sameach, he encountered him extremely filled with joy. Since the Ohr Sameach was an individual who was usually serious, this display of joy was idiosyncratic. Noticing the look of surprise on Rav Nachum's face, the Ohr Sameach said, "I was just inspired with an insightful chidush, novel explanation, and shortly thereafter I dozed off. When I slept I noticed in the Heavenly Yeshivah that a group of the greatest Torah leaders of the past generations were sitting deep in discussion. They pointed out that, regrettably, in the contemporary physical world, no one is able to explain the Talmud in accordance with the truth of the matter. Current explanations lack accuracy. Suddenly, the Rashba arose and countered, "In Dvinsk, there is a rav who has been able to zero in on the truth even better than I." This is a reference to the statement made by the Rashba in one of his Responsa in which he is compelled to correct the text of the Talmud, because it otherwise does not make sense. The Ohr Sameach, however, had explained it perfectly!

The Techeles Mordechai, Horav Shalom Mordechai Schwadron, zl, fell asleep on Rosh Hashana night and dreamed that he had been awakened from his sleep by someone who asked him, "Do you want to see the Sifrei Chaim and Sifrei Meisim, the Books of Life and Death?" When he replied in the affirmative, he was told that he would be allowed to look for one minute. He saw the names of a number of Jews with whom he was acquainted that had not been entered in the Book of Life. He later remarked that, unfortunately, what he had seen in his dream had become reality.

Another time, he related that he dreamed on Shabbos night that the Heavenly Tribunal was judging a certain bachur, young man, a student in his yeshivah, concerning chillul Shabbos, desecrating the Shabbos. At first, this seemed ludicrous-- until after Shabbos, the young man approached him that he needed advice concerning the process of teshuvah, penance and repentance. Apparently, he had been smoking his pipe while he was learning on Erev Shabbos, and he had not noticed that it was past shekiah, sunset. He immediately accepted upon himself his rebbe's advice for repentance.

Horav Moshe, zl, m'Kutzi, author of the S'MAG, an acronym for Sefer Mitzvos Gadol, writes in his preface that he was instructed in a dream to "make a Sefer Torah of two parts." Staring at the vision, he "understood" that it was expected of him to author a compendium of mitzvos: Aseih, positive commandments, and Lo Saaseh, prohibitive commandments, which he did. Furthermore, when he failed to include one Lo Saaseh, he once again was corrected in a vision with the words, "Guard yourself, lest you forget Hashem, your G-d." He had never before experienced this as a prohibitive commandment.

In the sefer, Ohr Zarua, Horav Yitzchak, zl, m'Vienna, writes that he was unsure if the name of the Tanna Rabbi Akiva should end with an alef or a hay. In a dream, he "saw" the pasuk, Ohr zarua la'tzadik u'lyishrei lev simchah, "Light is sown for the righteous, and for the upright of heart, gladness"( Tehillim 97:11). The last letters of the words of this pasuk spell out the name Akiva - with a hay. This prompted him to entitle his major work Ohr Zarua.

A number of such incidents have been recorded by Rishonim in their commentary or responsa. In fact, Horav Yaakov of the Baalei Tosfos authored an entire sefer entitled Sheilos U'Teshuvos Min HaShomayim, a compendium of eighty-nine questions, which he asked Heaven, receiving answers for all but one: When would Moshiach arrive?

The Chasam Sofer writes in his Derashos: "Surely, there are instances in which the righteous are foretold concerning events that will occur that can have a negative effect on Klal Yisrael. Hashem does this so that the righteous will prepare, remaining firm and resolute in order to prevent the decree from occurring." He adds that a number of times he had dreams that served as such a portent.

The Seder HaDoros writes that the mother of Rav Yechiel, father of the Rosh, was a young widow with three young sons. One Friday night, she dreamed that a woman came to her, instructing her to immediately leave the city. She woke up with a shudder, but soon went back to sleep. The dream repeated itself, as the woman appeared once again with the same warning. This time, the mother grabbed her three sons and fled to the outskirts of the city where she sought refuge in the home of the gentile laundress. At daybreak, a band of robbers attacked the sleeping village, plundering, killing and wreaking havoc. She returned home with her three sons. The entire Torah world are the fortunate beneficiaries of that dream.

You shall tithe the entire crop of your planting. (14:22)

Our parsha teaches us about the laws of tzedakah, charity, and maaser, tithing. The relationship between the two occurs in the third and sixth years when one is commanded to give Maaser Ani, tithe for the poor. Indeed, in the Talmud Shabbos 119A, Chazal teach that Aser bishvil shetisasheir, "Tithe so that you will become wealthy." They are indicating a corollary between opening up our hearts and wallets and the reward of increased wealth. In other words, one does not lose anything by giving charity. On the contrary, he gains.

Tzedakah is a powerful mitzvah, one that generates much merit for the benefactor. After all, it is included with teshuvah, repentance, and tefillah, prayer, as one of the three vehicles for abrogating a Heavenly decree. Hashem listens to the individual who is charitable. Charity plays a compelling role in catalyzing a positive response from Hashem. Why? What about charity -- more so than other mitzvos -- invokes Hashem's "cooperation"?

Horav Eliyahu Schlessinger, Shlita, cites the Talmud Shabbos 151b, where Chazal state: "Whoever has compassion on people, they will have mercy on him in Heaven." This means that by showing compassion for a fellow human being, one arouses the reservoirs of Heavenly Mercy, which catalyzes Hashem to "sit" on the Throne of Mercy, rather than on the Throne of Strict Justice. We pray for this during the closing Neilah prayer on Yom Kippur, when we ask Hashem: "O Attribute of Mercy, overflow upon us; and before Your Creator, cast our supplication, for the sake of Your people, request mercy; for every heart is pained and every head is ill." How do we generate that overflowing of mercy? Tzedakah accomplishes this in the same way that teshuvah and tefillah do.

We have to offer gratitude to those who share their wealth with others, because not only do they help the individual, but they also engender a flow of Heavenly mercy. This idea applies to acts of chesed, lovingkindness, as well. In the Talmud Bava Basra 10A, Chazal relate that Turnus Rufus Caesar asked Rabbi Akiva, "If your G-d loves the poor, why does He not sustain them?" Rabbi Akiva replied that it creates an opportunity for other Jews to be generous and to help their brethren, thereby mitigating their own punishment for the sins that they might have committed. Rabbi Akiva supplements this with an analogy. A king became angry at his son and disciplined him by incarcerating him in a dungeon without food or drink. A man went on his own intiative to bring food to the prince. Did the king appreciate the individual's gesture? Certainly! He could not feed his son, because it would have undermined his own punishment, but he surely did not want his son to perish. Thus, anyone who went behind his back to reach out to his son, would be rewarded. Likewise, we Jews are considered Hashem's children. He will, therefore, compensate anyone who helps His children.

What greater merit can we seek for ourselves than "alleviating" Hashem's burden? He must support His children, but, sometimes, He cannot as part of the discipline He must enforce. He does appreciate, however, anyone who "helps" Him by sustaining His children.

Horav Nosson Wachfogel, zl, the venerable Mashgiach of Beth Medrash Gavohah was wont to relate an incident which he heard as a student in Kelm, Lithuania. One night, during the month of Elul, the month reserved for serious introspection and extreme exactitude in all mitzvos as preparation for the High Holy Days, the Alter of Kelm, Horav Simcha Zissel Braude, zl, had a dream. In the dream, he envisioned that Rabbeinu Yonah, the Rishon who authored the Shaarei Teshuvah, the handbook for repentance, was coming to Kelm to give a shmuess, ethical discourse. Imagine, Rabeinu Yonah himself would speak in the city known for its singular devotion to spiritual integrity, meticulous observance of mitzvos, and character refinement during the month of Elul! This was the opportunity of a lifetime. The time was announced, and word was spread throughout the town.

At the appointed time, every Jew in Kelm had arrived and waited patiently, excitedly and with great trepidation to enter the bais hamedrash where the sage would hold forth. Understandably, the paragon of mussar, ethics, was waiting to enter. The guard at the entrance to the beis hamedrash asked the Alter to identify himself, which he did. One can only begin to imagine the surprise and eventual shock and dismay when the guard did not permit the Alter to enter. "How could this be?" the Alter asked. "I must enter." He began to beg, relating the many z'chusim, merits, he had. He called forth the multitudes of students he had directly or indirectly influenced, his meticulous observance of mitzvos, his illustrious lineage; none of this seemed to impress the guard. Nothing moved him. Rav Simchah Zissel was not going to gain entrance to the shmuess. Finally, the teacher exclaimed, "You should know that my son is Rav Nochum Velvel!" When the guard heard whose father he was, he immediately allowed him to enter the bais hamedrash. It was at this point that the Alter woke up. Disturbed, he immediately called for his saintly son and related the dream to him: "What merit did you have that superseded every argument that I presented? What did you do that was so unique that only because of your merit was I permitted to enter?" Clearly, the Alter had taken his dream quite seriously.

When Rav Nochum saw that his father was quite agitated, he related the following story. Apparently, for quite some time, Rav Nochum had been wearing a pair of thread bare, worn out and torn shoes. There was limited money, and whatever money they could scrounge, shoes were simply not a priority. Once, he had occasion to be at the shoemaker's shop and he saw an excellent, sturdy pair of shoes for sale. Realizing that the price of the shoes would put him back a bit, he decided to save for them. Every week, he would put away a few pennies which he was able to hoard. Finally, the day came, and with great excitement, Rav Nochum took his savings, proceeded to the shoe store and purchased the long awaited pair of shoes. He could now walk wearing sturdy shoes that would allow him to have the necessary support with a certain degree of comfort.

Shortly thereafter, on a freezing cold wintry night, he heard a feeble knock at his door. He rose from his studies to answer the door, to be greeted by a poor man who was going door to door begging for alms. The man was dressed in tattered clothing with not even a coat to protect him from the inclement weather. Rav Nochum motioned him to come into the house and gave him a warm drink. As the man stood up and was about to leave, Rav Nochum noticed that he was not wearing shoes.

Furthermore, his feet were bloodied and blistered, frostbitten from the cold and snow. "Where are your shoes?" Rav Nochum asked. "They are not my first priority. When one does not have what to eat, he first seeks to calm his hunger pains, then he worries about shoes," the man replied. Rav Nochum did not flinch for a moment. He immediately removed his shoes and gave them to the poor man. "Here, you surely need them more than I," he said.

Rav Nochum turned to his father and said, "Probably it was that act of chesed that earned me the merit, so that you could enter the room to listen to Rabbeinu Yonah's shmuess."

When one performs acts of chesed with no ulterior motive other than to help his fellow Jew, it demonstrates his overwhelming love for Hashem and His children. Such a selfless act of kindness has the capability of catalyzing an incredible spiritual flow of Heavenly mercy for himself and for the world.

You shall tithe the entire crop of your planting, the produce of the field, year by year. (14:22)

The Talmud in Shabbos 119A comments: Aseir bishvil shetisasheir, "Tithe, so that you will become wealthy." What is the reason that giving tzedakah increases one's material assets? Horav Shimon Shkop, zl, explains that all material and spiritual abundance that comes to us from on High is granted for one purpose: to benefit the collective Jewish nation. The individual Jew is nothing more than a caretaker of his personal portion, holding it in place for an opportunity when it can better serve the klal, Jewish community at large. As with any caretaker who shows promise when he performs well in supervising a small cache, he is likely to be rewarded with a larger treasury placed under his guardianship. Likewise, one who provides excellent care and return for the gifts granted him by Hashem will eventually receive greater opportunity to display his devotion and expertise. Of course, one who fails in his initial test will not be granted other opportunities for failure. Thus, one who tithes his money will receive greater material abundance - so that he can share even more with others.

Rav Shimon adds that this idea applies equally to one's talents and abilities. They are also G-d-given gifts, granted to us for a purpose: to serve the collective Jewish people. Thus, one who has been blessed with the ability to inspire, to influence others either by example or by teaching them, should do so. This is also a form of tzedakah. It is a common error to allege that charity is performed only with money. Time and skill, talent and expertise, are likewise valuable assets that one can - and should - share with others.

Horav David Lipshutz, zl, and Horav Leib Malin, zl, both students of Rav Shimon Shkop once stayed after a shiur, lecture, to further discuss the subject. After almost an hour of discussion, the two talmidim apologized to their rebbe for taking up so much of his precious time. It was at this point that he explained that aseir ta'aseir, aseir bishvil shetis'asheir, does not apply solely to money. It is relevant to every area of one's possessions: physical, material and spiritual. Therefore, a rosh yeshivah who disseminates Torah to many students, a function that requires much time on his part, whether it is in devoting time to prepare a shiur or spending time talking with a student, guiding and inspiring him, is performing a tithe. He is contributing his gifts, so that others may grow spiritually. He will be rewarded by having his "time" multiply, so that he will be able to be mechadesh, prepare novellae and penetrating shiurim, in much less time than he had previously.

In an addendum to the above, Horav Dov Eliach, master author and biographer, quotes Rav Shimon's grandson that in his later years when Rav Shimon's health was failing, his doctor suggested that he "cut back" and desist from saying his shiurim. Rav Shimon replied that the only reason Hashem grants life is for the purpose of acting on behalf of Torah and its related causes. Otherwise, why should he live? Therefore, on the contrary, the more he teaches, the more he will be blessed. The more time expended, the more time he will be granted. After all, aseir bishvil shetis'asheir.

In the event he will say to you, "I will not leave you"…then you shall take the awl and put it through his ear and the door, and he shall be for you an eternal slave. (15:16,17)

A Jewish bondsman is sold for a period of six years in lieu of his debt incurred by stealing. If he decides to continue his servitude beyond that period, his ear is drilled with an awl against the doorpost. Chazal explain that the ear was selected, rather than any other organ because it "heard" at Har Sinai the admonition of Lo Signov, "Do not steal," yet this man ignored the prohibition and stole. Horav Arye Levine, zl, explains that his first act of stealing which catalyzed his avdus, servitude, is something that could be understood. Everyone errs in some manner. This fellow lapsed by stealing. It is a stumbling block. Therefore, when one steals, his ear is not drilled, because his indiscretion is a sign of a frailty within the individual - something which can be acknowledged and even, to some extent, understood, based upon the circumstances that led to his downfall.

His desire to remain a servant, to give up on life in society, to escape reality and responsibility, however, is an indication of a deeper problem. It demonstrates a lack of bitachon, trust, in the Almighty. He loves his master, and places his entire trust in a human, ignoring Hashem. For that, his ear is drilled. There is no place for yiush, hopelessness, among the Jewish people. It is more than a lapse in behavior - it is a sign of faithlessness, an indication that one has given up and broken with his faith. He exclaims, "I love my master," placing his hopes and aspirations in a human being of flesh and blood, while ignoring Hashem. One who rejects the Almighty and instead relies on human intervention deserves to have a reminder imprinted in his ear, so that the folly of his misplaced trust will be something that he never forgets.

Va'ani Tefillah

Zeicher rav tuvecha yabiu The remembrance of Your abundant goodness they shall utter.

When Hashem shines His Countenance upon us; when we are the beneficiaries of His favor, we often do not realize how much we have actually gained as a result of His favor. Every favor symbolizes much more than we see and realize. It often, by extension, affects many people. Horav Pinchas Scheinberg, Shlita, quotes Horav Ben Tzion Baruk, zl, who compares this to a library catalog with its many index cards. On the cards are initials which reference the book to a variety of categories. Thus, a few letters on an index card can quite possibly serve as a guide for a variety of references. Likewise, when we articulate one of Hashem's favors, we should bear in mind the tremendous domino effect of that favor. Each gift is merely an "abbreviation" in the great index of favors which we derive from Hashem on a constant basis.

Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, comments that the word yabiu, which is translated as "express" or "utter," really means "to bubble over" with excited talk. When we speak of Hashem's goodness, we should effervesce with exuberance.

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