title.jpg (23972 bytes) subscribe

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues


"And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying" (Vayikra 1:1).

The Sages taught (Yalkut Shim'oni Vayikra 1), "A Torah scholar who has no common sense; an animal's carcass is better than he." This lesson is derived from the fact that even the great Moshe Rabbeinu did not enter the Tabernacle until he was called and invited to do so; just as one should not enter someone else's home until he is invited to come in.

Those who were privileged to know true Gedolim (Torah giants) recognized that common quality in them; they have lots of common sense and their behavior among people is praiseworthy.

In Tanach there are stories about the relationship between a mentor and his student: Eliyahu and Elisha. When Eliyahu died and ascended to Heaven, Elisha cried out, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and its horsemen" (2 Melachim 2:12). The Gemara (Moed Katan 26a) interprets this passage to mean, "My father and my mother; who is more beneficial to Israel with his prayer than warriors."

Elisha was defining the essence of a true leader of Israel. He is both like a father and a mother to his constituents and he protects them with his holiness from all harm, even more than their armies do.

At the funeral of the great Reb Aharon Kotler ztvk"l, his student, my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kravitz z"l explained that "my father" means the one who cares for my spirituality and "my mother" means the one who cares for my material needs. The true leader of Israel is concerned for the welfare of his community; not only in spiritual matters but also in material ones.

There is a famous story of a poor Jew who asked his rabbi if he is permitted to use milk instead of wine for the required Four Cups at the Pesach Seder. The Rabbi understood the implications of the question, that the man could not afford the expensive beverage, and immediately gave him money to buy the holiday needs. After the man left, the Rabbi's student asked him, "Great Rabbi, I understand why, in your kindness, you gave the man money to buy wine. But why did you give him so much? Surely a few bottles of wine are not that expensive." The kind leader of Israel smiled and taught his student how to interpret other people's words properly. "Don't you understand? We are required to eat meat at the Seder and then to drink the last two cups. If this fellow wanted to substitute wine with milk, rather than another beverage, obviously he has no money to buy meat either. Therefore I gave him enough to buy wine and meat!"

I, personally, experienced a similar encounter. When I was newlywed, my wife and I prepared to celebrate the Passover holiday at home, however we could not afford to buy a set of dishes to be used only one week a year. I approached my Rebby, may he be well, and asked him if it is permissible to use paper goods at the Seder. He replied in the affirmative. However, a few days later I received an envelope in the mail. It was a letter from him which contained a check for $25, a lot of money in those days, with a note which read, "Paper goods do not befit the honor of the holiday. Buy a set of dishes and silverware for your family. Happy Pesach!"

Some years later, the story repeated itself. This time it was before Sukkos and I could not afford to buy the Four Species for the holiday. I told my wife that I would borrow someone else's in shul. She protested that it would be embarrassing to do so. I argued that in Europe that was the standard practice; sometimes there was even only one set which the entire town shared. Today Jews are affluent, baruch Hashem, and everyone buys his own set. But it is not an embarrassment to be poor and I had no problem living within my standards.

We decided that I would ask my mentor, HaGaon, Harav Ya'akov Kaminetsky ztvk"l who was right. Reb Ya'akov emphatically agreed with me on all points. However, he then went into the other room and brought out his own beautiful esrog. Handing it to me, he explained that he had two of them and could be satisfied with one. He then called Dovid Frankel and asked him to arrange to get me a lulav and hadassim. I was able to buy aravos, which are very inexpensive, and I found myself with four beautiful species after all, much to the delight of my dear wife who was afraid that I would be ashamed to come to shul empty handed.

Such is the way of true leaders of Israel; may we follow in their path, always.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel