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Shavuos: Torah, Shabbos and the Jews

A Striking entry in our Shavuot Contest for Children and Teens from Aryeh Spiro, age 8, of Toronto.

A Striking entry in our Shavuot Contest for Children and Teens from Aryeh Spiro, age 8, of Toronto.

Reb Shmelke’s tefillos were answered; it was revealed to him that Heaven was up in arms when his candle went out since the world was in need of his Torah. The tzaddik’s agitation over his dilemma was further distressing, and it was divinely ordained that Eliyahu HaNavi be dispatched to assist Reb Shmelke so that he could resume his learning.

Discovering that Eliyahu HaNavi had been imposed upon on his account devastated the tzaddik. For months on end following this incident, each time it came to mind he’d weep anew.

The Apter Rav, who had heard this story from Reb Shmelke’s sister, would exclaim with incredulity that Reb Shmelke did teshuvah for the “sin” of being matriach (imposing upon) Eliyahu HaNavi for the purpose of enabling him to learn unhampered so that the universe would not be deprived of his Toras Emes. Imagine, he’d say, the repentance incumbent on the rest of us!

* * * * *

“Until the day following the seventh week you shall count fifty days, so that the souls of Your people Israel may be cleansed from their defilement.” (Sefiras HaOmer)

Each person knows in the depth of his heart whether he has rectified his deeds. But one who finds to his dismay that the days of Sefiras HaOmer have passed and he has yet to right his wrongs can still make amends on the fiftieth day, until Shavuos and including the day of Shavuos. (Beis Avraham)

The mitzvah of lecht tzinden – lighting candles in honor of Shabbos – was given to the woman of the house, as it was she who was responsible for putting out the lights of all neshamos on that infamous first Friday when she ate of the eitz hadaas and had Adam partake of it as well. Woman was therefore commanded to re-light the ner she had extinguished. (A neshamah is referred to as a ner – candle.)

It is moreover fitting for the woman, the queen in her home, to usher in the Shabbos Malkah (Shabbos Queen) with candle-lighting – a privilege and honor to be performed with ultimate joy, which will in turn bode well for her household. (Zohar)

Moshe Rabbeinu was instructed by Hashem to speak first to the women folk, and only then to the men. With the devastation wrought by the first couple early on (when Chava had not personally been commanded to abstain from eating of the Eitz Hadaas), no chances were taken this time around. Hashem intended for the Torah to serve as an everlasting blueprint for man’s existence, and the wife’s support and encouragement would be an indispensable factor to that end.

As it happened, this distinction bestowed upon them at Mattan Torah impelled the women not to take part in the Golden Calf fiasco; to their credit, they refused their husbands’ request to hand over their golden jewelry. (Shemos Rabbah)

* * * * *

The concept of people coming to him for blessings did not sit well with the Chofetz Chaim, who felt that it was Hashem they needed to turn to and beseech.

A frustrated man who had been feeling ill for a prolonged period of time and for whom conventional medicines did nothing once approached the Chofetz Chaim for a berachah. The tzaddik was heard to exclaim:

“Who do you think can give you a berachah? Yisroel Meir? God forbid! The blessings are absolutely not in my hand. Do you know whose hand they are in? In the hand of the Holy Shabbos! As we say when we are mekabel the Shabbos, ‘Likras Shabbos l’chu v’neilchah ki hee mekor ha’berachah – To welcome the Shabbos come let us go, for she is the source of blessing…’ So why do you come to me for a berachah?”

The Chofetz Chaim followed the outburst by saying, “If you will guard the holiness of Shabbos and receive the berachah from Shabbos and will still want to be blessed by me, Yisroel Meir, then I too will bless you.”

The Chofetz Chaim’s words stunned the people around him, for he had perceived through ruach hakodesh that the man who had come to him for a blessing had a son who had stopped being shomer Shabbos.

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