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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Boruch Leff’

The Tale Of Two Armstrongs In Elul

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Two major news stories involving two famous men named Armstrong occurred within days of each other recently. Was it random happenstance? Or was there hashgacha involved?

We know that nothing happens outside Hashem’s realm and power. But did Hashem have a specific reason for these two events occurring together when they did?

Of course, we can’t claim to know the specifics of how Hashem operates the world, but something tells me there must be a message for us to uncover from the two men named Armstrong.

Lance Armstrong is a hero to millions of people, especially to those battling cancer. While on the rise in a cycling career, he was diagnosed at age 25 with a cancer that metastasized to his brain and lungs. His cancer treatments included surgery and extensive chemotherapy, and his prognosis was initially very poor. He was told he had less than a forty percent chance to live. But he not only survived, he went on to become a world class cyclist and win the most prestigious international cycling race, the Tour de France, for an unprecedented seven consecutive years.

But something happened to make him less of a hero in the eyes of many. After years of rumors and investigations, he decided to stop fighting charges that he used illegal steroids and hormones. (He still maintains his innocence despite the allegations of those who claim to have witnessed otherwise, though he is no longer battling them in order to clear his name.)

On the other hand there is Neil Armstrong, the famous astronaut and the first man to walk on the moon, who died at the age of 82. He coined perhaps the most famous secular quote of the 20th century upon taking that first step on the moon in 1969, saying, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

While Neil Armstrong could have taken advantage of his fame, as other astronauts of his era did, he shied away from the limelight. He simply did not want any financial or material gain to come from his work for his country and its space program. After retiring from NASA he went on to live a very quiet life teaching at a small college in Ohio.

Lance Armstrong. Neil Armstrong. Both become major news stories within days of each other for very different reasons. Both become major news stories in Elul.

What does the name Armstrong connote? A strong arm. Lehavdil thousands of havdalos, the name Armstrong brings to mind that the Ribbono shel Olam is described in Egypt as having a Yad HaChazakah, a Strong Hand or Arm. In Parshas Ki Savo (26:8), the pasuk says that Hashem took us out of Egypt with a Yad HaChazakah. We mention this pasuk in the Hagaddah and we say there this Strong Arm refers to the plague of dever, the death of the animals of the Egyptians. The Malbim explains that only with regards to dever do we find the Torah describing that Yad Hashem struck the Egyptian flock. For no other plague is the term “the Hand of Hashem” used. This indicates that dever was somehow the greatest of all the plagues. In fact, the Malbim says that dever existed in every plague and encompassed all of the Ten Plagues. Without going into the details of how that was the case, we derive from this that the term Yad HaChazakah relating to Hashem indicates great judgment and consequence.

Is it any wonder, then, that we find the word Armstrong in the news in Elul, with the Day of Judgment right around the corner? Indeed, the Yad HaChazakah is coming and we must prepare.

And how do we prepare? We must learn the lesson of Lance Armstrong and the allegations against him. We may be heroes to many people who look up to us for our various spiritual accomplishments. But unless we do teshuvah, whatever we do in private that is inappropriate can and will come back to haunt us when the Yad HaChazakah chooses to have it displayed. That display may be in this world or it might wait for the next, but He will judge the inner core of who we really are and there is no escaping it. False facades and fortune only last so long before eventually being blown to pieces.

Gaza’s Greatness And Shimshon’s Struggles

Monday, June 4th, 2012

We often sit through the haftorah without understanding what it is all about. “Why do we read the haftorah anyway?” we sometimes think. Krias HaTorah of the parsha makes sense—we read a portion of the Chumash each week so that over the course of the year we have completed the entire Torah. But what is the goal of reading the haftorah? We know that it is not so we can finish Navi on some kind of schedule. What then is the purpose of the haftorah?

The Levush (284:1) writes that Chazal enacted the obligation to read the haftorah during the time of Antiyochus who forbade reading the Torah in public. As he had not forbidden them from reading the Navi, Chazal instituting reading a portion of the Navi which related to that week’s parsha. They divided it into seven aliyos, like Krias HaTorah, so that Jews would study some aspect of Torah in public and the practice of reading from the Torah should not be totally forgotten. Even after Antiyochus’s decree was annulled, Chazal maintained the practice.

Sefer HaPardes writes that Jews used to learn Chumash and Navi immediately after davening every day, but poverty and people’s work schedules kept them from being able to devote so much time to learning. As a result the study of Navi was neglected. On Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim, when there is more time, Chazal instituted that Navi be studied after the reading of the Chumash. Though Sefer HaPardes does not mention the importance of a link to the parsha, it would seem that in this way people would study it with greater attention and interest.

What then is the goal of the haftorah? According to the Levush and Sefer HaPardes, the purpose is for us to become familiar with the insights and themes contained in Navi. Unfortunately, we don’t always get the opportunity to study and understand the haftorah properly even when we follow the reading closely. Thus, this column is meant to help us understand, learn, and know Navi- and not merely superficially read or listen to the reading.

Lessons The haftorah of Parshas Naso relates the story of the birth of Shimshon the nazir, which obviously relates to the halachos of nazir mentioned in the parsha.

Almost the entire Shimshon story occurs in the area of Eretz Yisrael called Aza, now known as Gaza.

The Tzitz Eliezer (Volume 7, siman 48, perek 12) discusses whether Gaza is including in the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael and is surprised that anyone would have any doubts. He cites a Gemara in Shabbos (145b) where it is taken for granted that Gaza is part of Eretz Yisrael.

“Rav Chiya bar Abba said to Rav Assi, ‘Why are the birds in Bavel fatter [than the ones in Israel]? Rav Assi replied, ‘Come to the desert in Gaza and I’ll show you how fat they are!’”

Rashi explains that the Gemara is clearly affirming Gaza’s status as part of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, says the Tzitz Eliezer, the halachos of teruma, maaser, shemita and all other agricultural mitzvos relate to Gaza. The atonement one gets by being buried in Eretz Yisrael applies to Gaza, as does the mitzvah of yishuv ha’Aretz.

The Arvei Nachal (Parshas Shelach 26b) explains that successfully conquering the land of Israel does not depend on brute strength or military prowess. Rather, when Hashem created the world, he looked to the Torah as His blueprint. As the Zohar says, “Histakel b’Oraysa u’bara alma.” This means that every single part of this earth was created through an aspect of Torah. In order to take complete and permanent possession over any land, one must first study, relate to, and master the Torah which is specifically tied to that portion of land.

Although this concept is true about the entire world, Eretz Yisrael was given a much more powerful connection to the Torah. Given that the Torah in its highest form can be observed only there, every inch of Eretz Yisrael is securely tied to a specific section of Torah. One needs to master that section of Torah in order to conquer that part of Eretz Yisrael.

In this light, let us discuss what parts of Torah that Gaza profoundly relates to and how Shimshon’s struggles focused on Gaza’s role in Torah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/gazas-greatness-and-shimshons-struggles/2012/06/04/

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