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May 24, 2016 / 16 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Holy’

The Miracles Of The Ramban

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Rabi Moshe ben Nachman, widely known as the Ramban was born in the year 1194 in the town of Gurunda, Catalina. He became famous as a great scholar and sage and wrote interpreta­tions on the Torah and on many Gemaras, and authored many seforim, which are revered to this day. The Ramban was also a philosopher and a physician and his ser­vices were in great demand.

One day, while the Ramban was study­ing, an elderly man was ushered into his chambers. The man was a mystic and well versed in the Kabbalah, He introduced himself to the Ramban and proceeded to urge him to study the Kabbalah. The Ramban avoided this study, as he believed it was unnecessary in this world. When the man became persistent the Ramban ordered him to leave.

“You’ll see,” said the Kabbalist, “how necessary it is to study this mysticism. I am urging you to do this for your sake, because you are a great man and you never can tell when you may need it.”

The elderly man left the Ramban’s house and walking into a church began to smash the statues and do other mischief. He was caught, judged to be a heretic, and sentenced to be burned at the stake that Shabbat.

The Kabbalist Performs Miracles

When the Ramban heard he was aghast. He visited the condemned man and upbraided him for his bad behavior, which served as a reflection upon all Jewry. The elderly man seemed un­concerned and asked the Ramban to please prepare his three Shabbat meals. The Ramban thought he was men­tally unbalanced and left him.

Shabbat morning the man was led to a tremendous burning pyre. As the soldiers prepared to throw him into it, the Kabbalist uttered the Holy name and they were suddenly struck blind. Miraculously a goat appeared on the scene and the soldiers grabbed it and threw it into the fire, thinking it was the elderly man.

Walking home, the Kabbalist entered the Ramban’s home in time to answer Amen to the Ramban’s kiddush. The Ramban was amazed and after hearing the entire story he decided to learn the wisdom of the Kabbalah. He spent many months with this elderly man and then he went to study with the sage, Rabi Elazar of Worms, world-renown Kabbalist and author of the sefer HaRokeach. After a few years, the Ramban became proficient in the wisdom of the Kabbalah.

Ramban Launches A Ship

The following year all of Spain turned out to witness the launching of one of the largest warships of the time, in the city of Barcelona. The king and queen were there as well as the entire court. The leaders of all nations were also present. As the chief spokesman for his people, the Ramban was also invited to attend.

While the trumpets blared, the workingmen released the wedges to permit the ship to slide down into the water. But something went wrong and the boat would not move. The workingmen frantically began to push the boat and used every method but it wouldn’t budge. The pop­ulace began to groan.

The Ramban, seeing this predicament, remarked to one of his pupils that with the use of the Holy Name he could move the boat and if need be, even mountains. A neighbor hearing this rushed to the king and repeated the conversation. The king commanded the Ramban to be brought before him and he ordered him to fulfill his boast.

Realizing his predicament, the Ramban requested a dinghy with a pilot to accompany him in the harbor. This was granted. The Ramban then uttered the awesome Holy Name and commanded the ship to slide down into the waters. Wonders of wonders! The boat began to move slowly and soon with a rush it splashed into the harbor water. The crowd cheered. However, before the king could sum­mon the Ramban to reward him, the Bishop approached the king and accused the Ramban of witchcraft.

Ramban Escapes

Hearing this the Ramban wrote out the Holy Name and the symbol of travel, on a piece of paper and placed it in a corner of the little boat. Immediately, the boat jumped forward as if guided by a tremen­dous power. The pilot had been asleep so he didn’t notice the boat racing through the waters. In a matter of minutes the boat covered half the coast of Spain and he entered a port near his home.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Don’t Confuse Torah with Buddhism, My Friends

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

This blog should be a permanent post on the homepage of The Jewish Press, and people should read it every day to remind themselves who they really are as Jews and what real Judaism is all about.

Don’t try to brush it off by saying, “What does Fishman know – a former screenwriter from Hollywood?”

Get ready to hear the Torah explained by the greatest Torah teacher of them all – Moshe Rabeinu, as we begin his review of the Torah in the Book of Devarim.

As we approach Tisha B’Av, it is indeed a fitting time to take a new/old look at the Torah and at its eternal truths, which are as true for our time as they were in the times of Moshe Rabeinu. That’s one of the basic principles of the Torah – it doesn’t change.

Sometimes people ask me. “Why do you waste your time trying to teach Diaspora Jews, over and over again, that the Torah is meant to be kept in the Land of Israel, rather than in Brooklyn, Boca, or Beverly Hills?”

The answer is because I love them. When you love somebody, you want the best for them. Even if you saw a total stranger about to fall off a cliff, you’d scream out to warn him – all the more so regarding someone you love.

Now, there are those who say, “What do you mean ‘fall off a cliff?’ Jewish life is great here in Brooklyn and Boca!”

It may seem great to them now, but at the end of their wonderful 120 years in Brooklyn and Boca, when they get to the gates of the real Gan Eden, they are going to be surprised to learn that they have to return back to Earth and live life all over again until they finish their tikun. It won’t help them if they’ve learned the whole Talmud ten times over. They’ll have to go back for another reincarnation. Why? Because they, we, the whole Nation of Israel, were thrown into exile because we transgressed the Torah when we lived in the Holy Land long ago. So our rectification, atonement, and tikun is to return to the Land of Israel and keep the Torah, there, in the Land of Israel, the way it was meant to be kept. Souls are reincarnated over and over again until they get things straight. The lucky ones, that is. For those who aren’t giving the chance, when the Resurrection of the Dead comes around, their bodies will have to roll all the painful way through underground tunnels from their Diaspora graveyards to the Holy Land, because, as the Zohar explains, the Resurrection of the Dead only takes place in Israel.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, our Sages inform us that the roots for the Destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem were planted long before the Destruction itself, on the night the Spies in the Wilderness returned from their ill-fated mission and convinced the Jewish People not to journey on to live in the Promised Land. That night was the 9th of Av. Their rejection of the Land of Israel was the rotten foundation which brought about our later National Destruction as an independent Nation in our own Land.

Afterwards, stripped of our own Jewish Land and Israeli Nationhood, we became minorities in foreign lands. Up until the Destruction, the religion of the Jewish People was the Torah, a combination of Divine laws and commandments that covered our individuals lives and the life of the Jewish Nation, laws concerning the king, the Sanhedrin, the army of Israel, the Beit HaMikdash, national sacrifices, and the agricultural laws unique to The Holy Land. But when we were cast out of our Land, the Torah lost its earthy component, and our physical Nationhood ceased. Instead of being the Divine Constitution of our Nation, the Torah was reduced to moral teachings and a handful of individual commandments, like the bones of a large salmon at the end of the Shabbos morning Kiddush. That’s when “Judaism” started. Stripped of our own Land, and Israelite monarchy, our own Jewish Nationhood was lost. Exiled in other peoples’ countries, we were left with the few ritual precepts that we could still perform, like putting on tefillin, keeping kosher, learning Torah, and observing the Sabbath. Instead of being our National Constitution, the Torah was truncated into being just a religion without its many fundamental National, Political, and Geopgraphic obligations and demands.

Tzvi Fishman

“By the Rivers of Brooklyn”

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

As all readers of The Jewish Press surely know, we are in the “Three Weeks” period leading up to Tisha B’Av, the day marking the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. During these three weeks, certain customs of mourning are observed to emphasize our great sorrow and loss. For instance, weddings are not conducted, and listening to happy music, dancing, and playing musical instruments are not allowed. There is one thing, though, that you could call a break, and that is the recital of Tikun Hatzot, the “Midnight Lamentation,” can now be said in the afternoon. For people who find it difficult to recite the Tikun Hatzot supplications late at night when they are overtired, this is a chance to recite this very powerful rectification with all of one’s concentration and feeling.

Many people think that Tikun Hatzot is something only for devout Hasidim and mystics, but the practice is mentioned on the very first pages of the halachic treatises, the Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Berura, which state: “If one is able to rise at midnight and perform the midnight service, there is nothing more praiseworthy than this, as it says, ‘Rise, cry out, in the night at the beginning of the watches, pour out thy heart like water before the presence of the Lord’” (Lamentations, 2:19). Our Sages tell us that at this time, God cries out, “Woe to My children on account of whose iniquity I destroyed My House, burnt My Temple, and exiled My children amongst the nations” (Berachot 3A). It is the time when the Divine Presence (the Shechinah) weeps for having been cast into the exile with Israel. The holy Zohar compares this to a king who cast his whoring son out from the palace into exile and sent the queen )the Shechinah) along with him to guard him throughout his wanderings. How painful it is for the royal queen to be sullied in foreign impure lands where she must remain with her son until he returns to the palace. So at midnight, we sit on the floor (some don sack cloths), and cry out over the pain of the Shechinah in exile, over the disgraced and exiled Jews, over the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. I try to recite Tikun Hatzot at least once or twice a week. Our Sages formulated the prayers to instruct us how we should feel in our ignominious exile from our Land, dispersed amongst the goyim. The Tikun Hatzot begins with the Psalm:

“By the rivers of Brooklyn and Paris and London and Melbourne and Toronto and Buenos Aries and Johannesburg, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion… How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Tehillim 137).

Make no mistake, my friends. America is a foreign gentile land. Canada is a foreign gentile land. England is a foreign gentile land. A Jew in America and Canada and England and France and Australia and South Africa is supposed to feel the terrible pain and disgrace of his outcast and ignoble situation, living as a minority amongst the goyim in a foreign gentile land. If he doesn’t experience his life in exile in this manner, feeling the spiritual emptiness and the strangeness of his foreign surroundings, while always yearning to return home to Zion and Jerusalem, then something is wrong with his Judaism and his identity as a Jew.

How much agony and anguish we are to feel over the Diaspora! Our once proud Nation has been destroyed! We have been stripped of our own Jewish Nationhood (until the establishment of Medinat Yisrael) and scattered to foreign lands. Our Holy Temple lies in ruins! And we are to feel pain for the disgrace of our mother, the Shechinah, for dragging her down into exile in countries polluted with idol worship and Xmas decorations nearly three months of the year. We read the verses that our Sages composed and tears fill our eyes. Shattered by our fallen condition in exile, a despised minority in gentile lands, and with hearts burning in shame for God, who is mocked and desecrated by the goyim who say, “These are God’s children and they are cast out of his Land,” as if to say that God doesn’t have the power to keep His promise to watch over His People in their own Jewish Land. So our Sages instructed us to wake up from our comfortable beds in the middle of the night and recite Tikun Hatzot over the pain of the Shechinah and the destruction of Jerusalem, just as they instructed us to recite this same Psalm after every weekday meal:

“By the rivers of Brooklyn and Paris and London and Melbourne and Toronto and Buenos Aries and Johannesburg, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion….

“How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

“If I ever forget you, O Jerusalem, withered be my right hand!

“May my tongue cleave to my palate, if ever I not think of you, if I ever not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”

We are to say this Psalm after enjoying our glatt kosher, triple-decker deli sandwiches with cole slaw, sour pickles, fries and a Fr. Brown’s Celery or Black Cherry soft drink, in order to remind us that Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem are where we really belong, and where our true happiness lies.

How many of you recite this Psalm after eating? How many of you really set Jerusalem over your highest joy? If you do, why aren’t you here now?

The great Hasidic master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, stated that the main devotion of a Jew is to get up every night for the Midnight Prayer:

“The exile has already lasted so long. God is only waiting for the moment to return to us and rebuild the Holy Temple. It could happen any time. Our task is to see that from our side we do nothing to obstruct the rebuilding of the Temple. On the contrary, we must make every effort to hasten it. This is why we should be careful to get up each night at midnight and mourn for the destruction of the Holy Temple. Perhaps in a previous incarnation we ourselves were responsible for something which brought about the destruction of the Temple. Even if not, it could still be that our sins in our present lifetime are holding up the rebuilding of the Temple, and this is as bad as if we had actually destroyed it. This is the reason why we must weep and mourn every night at midnight. When we do so, it is as if we were actually making a tremendous effort to rebuild the Holy Temple.”

The “Pele Yoetz” states:

“It is true that mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple is something that should be expressed in outward actions, especially during the Three Weeks, when one should put ashes on one’s head at the place where one lays tefillin, and sit by the doorway day and night to recite Tikun Hatzot. Still, the main thing is not the outward actions, but the feelings one has in one’s heart. One should feel brokenhearted, shed bitter tears, and sigh mournfully over the pain of Heaven.

“It may be true that today we have fallen to a very low level, and no one understands the full extent of what we are missing and what we have lost, what we have caused because of our sin, and what the exile of the Shechinah really means. Our very lack of understanding and sensitivity should fill us with anguish. Even so, each person is obligated to do what he can. One should imagine how he would feel if his mother was swathed and garbed in black, and was crying bitterly and shrieking, ‘The pain in my head! The pain in my arm! I brought up children, I raised them, and they rebelled against me!’ One should focus one’s mind and heart on similar bitter images and pour out one’s soul in a bitter cry, and then one may be worthy of seeing the consolation of Zion and the building of our Holy Temple in all of its glory.”

Truly, it is not easy to feel the pain of the exile and shed real tears every time one says Tikun Hatzot. After all, the destruction of Jerusalem happened almost 2000 years ago, and tragically, many Diaspora Jews are so used to the exile, they’ve long forgotten that there can be something totally different. And for the lucky Jews in Israel who have the unsurpassed blessing of living in Israel, with the Kotel only a short ride away, Jerusalem wondrously rebuilt, and a thriving Jewish State once again sovereign in the Land, it is often difficult to enter the proper mind set necessary to experience the terrible pain of the exile.

So to help me feel the anguish of the Shechinah who weeps over her scattered and exiled children, I look at pictures. Before reciting Tikun Hatzot, I sit on the floor and look at pictures of Brooklyn and Toronto and Miami Beach and Palm Springs and Lakewood and Monsey and Moscow. I imagine the Jews there, my brothers and sisters, and I cry over their exile from the Holy Land, over their captivity amongst the goyim, over the shame and disgrace of living in foreign gentile lands (and over the horrible fact that many of them don’t feel it!), and over the terrible plague of assimilation which is devouring the Jews in exile, and they remain there, blissfully denying that it could happen to their children or grandchildren as well. When I look at the pictures of Brooklyn and Toronto, and Boca and Beverly Hills, I pray with all my heart that God open their eyes, and give them a heart of flesh to feel the horror of their plight, living in strange impure lands, living make-believe identities, as if they are Americans and Frenchmen and Australians and Germans, when they are really the descendents of Israelites displaced from their Homeland.

Alas! How foolish and shortsighted we are! For 2000 years, the gentiles made certain to remind us that we were in exile, and made sure that we felt the pain. But today, in the temporary lull, when the gentiles are still resting from the last wholesale slaughter of 6 million Jews, like a rapist who rises from his victim with his lust and violence temporarily spent, we have deceived ourselves into thinking that today in our wonderful exiles, it could never happen again, as if the Almighty has forgotten His vow to return us to Israel, with fury, if need be, dragging us back to Eretz Yisrael by our peyes – chas v’shalom.

May the day come speedily when The Blessed One Holy Be He opens our eyes and give us new hearts to feel the shame and disgrace of our exile in Brooklyn, Boston, Boca, and Beverly Hills. May the flights of Nefesh B’Nefesh begin to be full, day after day, and may this coming fast day and day of mourning turn into a feast of falafel, shwarma, and, yes, yes, even bagels and lox, Israel style, the holiest and most delicious bagels and lox in the world. Amen.

[The full text of Tikun Hatzot, with both Tikun Rachel and Tikun Leah, can be found here]

Tzvi Fishman

Police Admit Permitting Arab Construction at Temple’s Foundation Stone for Six Years

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

According to the website Kipa, Israeli police on Thursday admitted that the Muslim Waqf has been conducting infrastructure work at the very heart of the Temple Mount, the foundation stone, for more than six years.

An Islamic Waqf has managed the Temple Mount continuously since the Muslim chased the Crusaders out of Jerusalem in 1187. On June 7, 1967, during the Six-Day War, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol declared that “no harm whatsoever shall come to the places sacred to all religions.” The Knesset passed the Preservation of the Holy Places Law, protecting the Holy Places against desecration, and guaranteeing freedom of access. In return for obeying the law, Israel agreed to leave the administration of the site in the hands of the Waqf.

Two weeks ago, a complaint was filed with the Israel Police Commissioner by a group of Temple organizations, regarding revelations about Waqf work at the Dome of the Rock, which includes laying scaffolding, tools and debris on top of the sacred Foundation Stone.

The police responded that “the work performed by the Waqf at the Dome of the Rock have begun more than six years ago. They are being performed with the approval of the Israel Antiquities Authority and under its supervision.” The police argued that the work has not caused any damage to the foundation stone.

But the IAA denies completely the approval and supervision of works on the Mount, according to the Temple organizations’ attorney Aviad Visoly, who accused the police commissioner of outrageous, appalling, and deceitful behavior.

“Your response also indicates an abysmal contempt by the Israel Police, and by yourself, as its ranking officer, the holiest place for the Jewish people,” Visoly wrote the commissioner.

The Temple organizations have asked the police commissioner “to convene as soon as possible the Temple Mount police taskforce, together with representatives of the Temple Mount rabbis (led by Rabbi Israel Ariel, who has recently been banned from entering the Temple Mount indefinitely), as well as the various Temple Mount advocacy groups, to so we can explain to you how sacred the Temple Mount to the Jewish people.”

The Temple organizations’ attorney added that ” the shocking images of desecration of the foundation stone, together with your response, indicate that disregard and ignorance of the value of Temple Mount has led the Israeli police to permit the unprecedented desecration of the holiest Jewish place, as it failed completely to carry out its responsibility to enforce the law protecting the holy places.”

Jewish Press Staff

Mashiach Now!

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Only an infant expects his desires to be gratified immediately. He wants his bottle now! He wants his rattle now! If he doesn’t get it, he screams, he hollers, he cries. Sometimes, when a child gets to be an adult, he still wants everything handed to him on a silver platter now, without having to do any work. For instance, some big babies demand Peace Now! To get their way, they are willing to do the most self-destructive things, like surrendering their homeland to the enemy and give them guns which end up killing Jews.

There are also people who want Mashiach Now! While the wish for Mashiach’s coming is a very praiseworthy thing, these people don’t realize that Mashiach’s coming is a process that evolves over time. These people want everything to be finished at the start. They say that when Mashiach comes and does all the work of rebuilding the Land of Israel, and gathers all of the exiled Jews to Israel, and fights the wars of Hashem, and rebuilds the Beit HaMikdash, then they will come on aliyah. First, everything has to be perfect. First, the Mashiach has to do all the work. If not, come hell or high water, they’re staying right where they are in Brooklyn, Boston, and Beverly Hills.

The Talmud speaks of “Tzaddikim who do not believe” (Sotah 48B). Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook explained that there were people at the time of the Second Temple who complained about the situation in their days, when a small portion of the Jews returned from exile, yet didn’t achieve the greatness of the past and the exalted level of the First Temple because the majority, including the community leaders, preferred to remain in Babylon with their businesses and wealth (Kuzari, Ch.2). In their eyes, the Second Temple was an affront. They would weep and express reservation and scorn, declaring, “This is the Temple? How pathetic.” The Prophets rebuked them for their attitude, asking, “Who has despised the day of small things?” The Talmud answers: “The small-minded among them who didn’t have faith in the Almighty” (Sotah 48B). You are disbelievers, the Prophets told them. The Lord is returning His children to Israel, it is He Himself who has re-established the Holy Temple, and yet you complain?

In our time too, Rabbi Kook taught, there are “tzaddikim” who criticize the Almighty for the way that He is returning the Jewish People to Zion. In their eyes, it isn’t glatt kosher enough for them. There are those who even say that what is happening now is the work of the Satan. Somehow they forget that everything that happens is from the Holy One Blessed Be He. Is it the Satan who has gathered millions of Jews from all over the world to Israel? Is it the Satan who has made the Land of Israel blossom and bloom after having lain fallow for two thousand years? Is it the Satan who has restored Jewish sovereignty over vast stretches of The Holy Land, and brought about miraculous victories in war, rebuilt Jerusalem, and made Israel the Torah center of the entire Jewish world? And still these people complain. They want everything perfect now! They want everything complete without having to lend a hand in the work and get their shoes dirty.

It is true that babies dirty their diapers, and teenagers do all kinds of stupid things that they shouldn’t do, and yes, even adults make mistakes. But is this a reason to throw the baby into the trash can, or kick the teenager out of the house, or burn an adult at the stake? Yes, there are problems in Israel; yes, not everything is perfect with the government; yes, the Supreme Court still has a goyisha cop; yes, not everyone is religious. But what about all the incredible good things? There’s more Torah being learned in Israel than everywhere else in the world. And in just a handful of decades, Israel has become one of the leading nations in just about every field you can name, from agriculture to computer technology. Just because we haven’t yet reached our ultimate Torah ideal, is this a reason to throw out the baby and kick the teenager out of the house?

Tzvi Fishman

Beha’alosecha: Light And Reason

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Each detail in the Torah is laden with meaning. Surely the service vessels of the Temple had great importance and consequence over and above their routine service. In the description of the menorah that stood in chamber outside the Holy of Holies, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, found layer upon layer of meaning.

“Toward the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps give their light” (8:2). The number seven is always the symbol of the creation of the universe from nothing, by the Word of Hashem. “Toward the face of the menorah” is explained by some as the side facing the Holy of Holies; others say it means the wicks of the six branches were turned toward the central post with its lamp. The symbolism of the menorah includes:

1. The gift of life (“The light of G-d is the life of Man” – Mishle 20:27) is a wondrous lamp only Hashem can kindle. The menorah demonstrates that all aspects of life and its resources (as symbolized by the branches of the menorah and their lamps) should be turned with their flames facing the central post (or as others explain, toward the Holy of Holies), which would mean the central principle of complete devotion to the Creator. To emphasize the importance of this principle, Hashem specifically commanded this procedure in this verse, and the following verse again emphasizes this principle: “And Aharon did so: toward the face of the menorah he brought up its lamps.”

2. The creation of light. “And Hashem saw that the light is good” (Bereishis 1:4). This “good” is so sublimely great that we daily devote part of the morning prayers to proclaim its importance and to thank Hashem for it, and we declare that the angels are forever occupied with the function of praising the gift of light. Light is sight, in addition to warmth and food production.

3. The gift of reason. All the achievements for which we have been created are made possible by means of faculties of thought, understanding, remembering, induction and other aspects, including sanity (proper functioning of all aspects of reason). For these gifts, the menorah is kindled. (The prayer for these faculties and the expression of thanks to the Creator for them are given the first place in the weekday berachos of Shemoneh Esrei.)

4. The privilege of having the Presence of Hashem among us forever. “It is a testimony to all that are in the world that the Shechinah rests upon Israel” (Shabbos 22B), as is written: “And we shall be distinguished, I and Your people, from all the people upon the face of the earth” (Shemos 33:16), which alludes to the words just before: “By Your going with us” (ibid.).

5. The request for Hashem’s favor toward us: “Hashem should cause His face to shine upon you” (6:25 above). “And the light of Your face, that You favored them” (Tehillim 44:4). Our greatest desire is to find favor in His eyes, and the menorah bespeaks our prayers and our gratitude for His favor.

6. The gift of Torah: “For mitzvah is a lamp, and Torah is Light” (Mishle 6:23). Our greatest gratitude is for this gift Hashem bestowed solely upon us: “And now, if you shall listen to My voice (i.e. if you shall accept My Torah) and you shall keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a unique treasure from among all the peoples. And you shall be for Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation” (Shemos 19:5-6). The chief part of this Covenant is the Oral Law: “The Holy One blessed is He made a Covenant with Israel solely because of the Oral Law” (Gittin 60B). Other nations profess to practice some laws from the Holy Scriptures, but they did not invade the sanctuary of the Oral Law, which was unknown to them. (Journey Into Greatness)

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.  For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller

Drinking on Purim: Holy or Wholly Irresponsible?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Jewish Tradition has always stressed moderation, restraint, and personal responsibility. This is true even when we celebrate. In Hilchot Yom Tov (6:20), Rambam warns:

“When one eats, drinks and rejoices on a festival, he should not drink too much wine or engage in levity or lightheadedness and say, ‘all who add to this are increasing the mitzvah of simchah.’ For drunkenness, excessive laughter, and lightheadedness is not simchah, but rather debauchery and foolishness…” Yet the Gemara (Megillah 7b) records: “Rava said, ‘One is obligated to get drunk on Purim until he does not know the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai.’” Drinking on Purim is accepted by the Rif and Rosh and codified by the Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 695).

It’s hard to imagine how drunkenness, which Judaism abhors the entire year, is considered an “obligation” on Purim. The author of Kol Bo struggles with this very question and writes:

“One is obligated to drink on Purim – not to the point of drunkenness. Drunkenness is completely prohibited and there is no greater offense than it, for it leads to adultery, murder, and the like. Rather, one should drink more than he is accustomed to in order to increase his joy and make happy the poor and console them, speak to their hearts – for that is true joy.”

‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai’

Concerning drinking on Purim, Rambam writes that one should drink until he falls asleep (Hilchot Megillah 2:15). Once asleep, one cannot differentiate between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.’ Tosafot writes that one should drink until he cannot recite the phrase, based on the Talmud Yerushalmi, “Cursed is Haman, blessed is Mordechai, cursed is Zeresh, blessed is Esther, cursed are all the wicked, blessed are all the Jews.” Some explain that the requirement is to drink until one can no longer answer the proper refrain to a poem that was once customarily recited on Purim (Abudraham, Purim and Darchei Moshe, Orach Chayim 695:1, citing Sefer HaMinhagim of Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac of Tirna). Others rule that the Gemara only requires one to drink to the point that he can no longer calculate the gemmatria of ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai, which share an equal numerical value (Rabbeinu Yerucham, Toldot Adam V’Chavah, Netiv 10, Chelek 1; Abudraham, Purim; Maharil, Minhagim, Hilchot Purim 10, citing Mahari Segel; Sefer HaAgudah 1:7; Bach, Orach Chayim 695; Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim 695:3).

A moderate approach is taken by Rema (Orach Chayim 695:2), who synthesizes the positions of the Kol Bo, Rambam, and Maharil, and writes:

“There are those who say that one need not drink too much, rather drink more than he is accustomed and sleep. Through sleep one does not know the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.’ One might increase, another might minimize – as long as the intent of their heart is [for the sake] of Heaven.”

Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira

Strikingly, immediately after Rava’s instructions to drink, the Gemara (Megillah 7b) offers the following anecdote:

“Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira made the Purim feast together. They got drunk. Rabbah arose and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira. The next day, he prayed for mercy and revived him. The following year he [Rabbah] said, ‘let’s make the Purim meal together again.’ He [Rabbi Zeira] answered, ‘not every moment does a miracle occur.’”

Some suggest that the Gemara cites this anecdote in order to illustrate the point that the halacha is not in accordance with Rava, and one should not get drunk. The story, in a sense, serves as a warning. One of the Tosafists, Rabbeinu Ephraim, as cited by the Ba’al HaMaor, concludes:

“Rabbah said, ‘One should drink on Purim, etc.’ Rabbeinu Ephraim wrote that from the account of ‘Rabbah arose and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira,’ this comes to nullify the statement of Rabbah. The halacha is not like him and it is not good to do so [i.e. get drunk] (HaMaor Hakatan in the pages of the Rif, Megillah 3b).”

How ironic, that in his girsa of the Gemara, it is Rabbah who both teaches the obligation to get drunk and who slaughtered Rabbi Zeira! This certainly serves to amplify Rabbeinu Ephraim’s position.

Yet other poskim deduce the opposite from the Gemara’s use of this anecdote. They see the story of Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira as a proof positive of the obligation to become intoxicated (Sefer HaEshkol, Auerbach Edition, Hilchot Chanukah V’Purim; Pri Chadash, Orach Chayim 695:2).

Why Drink?

According to Rashi, the obligation is to get drunk on wine. Abudraham and Chayei Adam explain that drinking wine reminds us that the miracle of Purim was carried out through wine. Feasting and drunkenness is a major theme in Megillat Esther and it allowed the easily pliable Ahashverosh to be manipulated. Drinking allows us to express our joy and gratitude to Hashem for His salvation (Magen David, Orach Chayim 695:1).

Rabbi Shimshon HaKohen Nadel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/drinking-on-purim-wholly-irresponsible-or-holy/2012/02/28/

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