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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Miller’

Naso: A Donation Of Incense

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Parshas Naso is notable for its length, and its length is notable for its redundancy. The Torah minces no words, and therefore we understand that the repetition in the description of the Mishkan’s inaugural service is purposeful and laden with meaning. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that this is a reflection on the importance and centrality of the Mishkan.

“And the nesi’im brought their offering” (7:10).

The purpose of the offerings by the nesi’im was to enhance the honor of the service. When the most important men demonstrate their service to Hashem, the people become greatly influenced. “The princes of the peoples [the tribes] are gathered together, the people of the G-d of Abraham; for when the shields of the land [the leaders] belong to G-d, He becomes greatly exalted” (Tehillim 47:10).

Wealth and power are given solely to be used for adding to Hashem’s honor. “Why is the property of the wealthy confiscated by the [gentile] government? [One reason:] Because they did not use their power to prevent transgressors from sinning” (Sukkah 29A, B). When the wealthiest became reformers and assimilationists, they caused the greatest havoc. Sir Moses Montefiore, who was the most important Jewish dignitary in England, left a tremendous impression on the Jewish nation.

Because the nesi’im honored the service of Hashem, they were given the privilege of offering ketoret. Montefiore, by his loyalty to Torah observance, produced a fragrance of immense honor to Hashem’s Torah; similarly, when any powerful or prominent Jew demonstrates his fervent loyalty to Hashem, it is a ketoret offering to Hashem. All the offerings of the nesi’im were accompanied by the Minchas N’sachim, as required by the Torah, consisting of a minchah offering and also a wine offering as specified in Bamidbar 15. The Minchas N’sachim is not mentioned, for it is understood that this is required; but the ketoret is mentioned because it is exceptional – solely in this instance – that anyone could donate it.

“And he who presented his offering on the first day was Nachshon ben Aminadav of the tribe of Yehudah” (7:12). We might ask why the Torah did not merely say, “These offerings were brought by each of the nesi’im; on the first day was Nachshon ben Aminadav of the tribe of Yehudah, on the second day was Nathanel ben Zuar…” instead of repeating for each of the nesi’im individually all the details of his offering. All brought exactly the same offerings, and therefore it might appear as an unnecessary expenditure of the priceless Torah text merely to repeat again and again the same description.

But we must keep in mind the Mishkan had been declared by Hashem (Shemos 25:8, 29:45) to be His place of residence, thus making this the center of the entire universe. The dedication of the Mishkan was no less important than the Creation of the World: “A Mikdash of Hashem that Your hands established” (Shemos 15:17); “the handiwork of the righteous ones [that fashioned the Mishkan] is even greater than the creation of heaven and earth” (Kesubos 8A), and they are the Creator’s hands. Thus every day of the dedication-offerings by each of the nesi’im was no less momentous than the appearance of a new sun in the heavens that filled the world with its light.

Each of the nesi’im came with his offerings and incense to enhance the splendor of Hashem’s palace. If we would understand the vastness of the importance of Hashem’s residence among the sons of Israel, we would surely realize that each day of the dedication deserves to be repeated in the Torah.

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.

Understand The Ways Of Hashem

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

The truth is sometimes unpopular or uncomfortable. Thus, people who wish to dismiss the Hand of Hashem from history and human affairs may be taken aback by the assertion of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, based on the beginning of this parshah, that the suffering that befalls Israel comes for a Divine purpose. Rabbi Miller finds this purpose explicit in the opening words of Bechukosai, and observes that this “wish” (to dismiss the Hand of Hashem from history) is not a Jewish way of thinking.

“If you shall walk in My statutes” (26:3). The following promises and admonitions are called a “covenant” (bris). At the end of the Tochechah in Devarim it is stated: “These are the words of the Covenant which Hashem commanded Moshe to cut [i.e. to make] with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the Covenant which He cut with them at Horeb” (Devarim 28:69).

The Covenant at Horeb is this Tochechah of the book of Vayikra. The Covenant was made not only for the episodes of the First Destruction and of the Second Destruction. The purpose of Hashem in these portions of the Torah is clear: whenever any calamities have come upon the nation, or upon some part of the nation, the people of Hashem’s Torah must attribute these misfortunes to the disapproval of Hashem: “If you will not hearken to Me, and you shall not fulfill all of these commandments” (26:14).

Certainly if the nations of the world are the messengers of misfortune they are held guilty; but to attribute the calamity to our enemies and to ignore the Ruler of the World as the sole true author of all that transpires is a breach of the Covenant and a contradiction of the Torah. We today are not capable of discerning the sins of our ancestors, but our ancestors themselves declared in the Scriptures and in the Talmud the misdeeds for which these disasters were visited upon them.

The tendency today to omit the Hand of Hashem and to dwell solely on the guilt of the enemies of Israel is a direct contradiction to these two very prominently stated Covenants. To shrug off the very great calamities of our time by saying “We cannot understand the ways of Hashem” is actually a concealed form of the atheistic attitudes that have seeped in from the outside world. “And it shall be, when all these matters shall come upon you, the blessing and the curse that I have put before you, and you put this to your heart, among all the nations where Hashem your G-d has driven you” (Devarim 30:1).

“And many evils and troubles will come upon them; and he shall say on that day: ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our G-d is not in our midst?’ ” (ibid. 31:17). “Take this book of the Torah… that it be there a witness against you” (ibid. 31:26). In addition to this purpose of the ensuing parshah as a post- facto testimony, it is certainly intended also as a stimulus to virtue and to Fear of Hashem. “I said: surely you will fear Me; you will take correction” (Zefaniah 3:7). By reading this parshah properly, we can be spared the experiences which are there foretold.

It is noteworthy that all the rewards for compliance with the Torah are solely in this life. The Rambam (Teshuvah 9:1) explains that the promises of happiness in this life are not intended as the ultimate reward but are promises of opportunity to accomplish more good deeds and to gain more merit. Similarly, the retribution of unhappiness which is foretold for transgression of virtue is not the ultimate punishment, which is in the Afterlife; but Hashem foretells the loss of opportunity to accomplish righteous deeds due to various forms of suffering.

Thus it is said: “The reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward for a transgression is [another] transgression” (Avos 4:2), because he who seeks to do mitzvos is rewarded with opportunity to do more; and this is the greatest of rewards, as is said: ” Better one moment of Torah and good deeds in this world more than all the life of the World to Come” (ibid. 4:17).

Parashat Emor: Learning Compassion

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The Talmud tells us that compassion is one of the three traits that distinguish the nation of Israel (the others are shame and kindness). The Torah abounds with commandments that exercise this quality, and Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that they are given for exactly that purpose. Among these commandments are those that protect the welfare of animals. About these, Rabbi Miller explains that the true compassion we must learn is not for the animal but for ourselves.

“And an ox or a sheep, him and his son you shall not slaughter on the same day” (22:28).

This applies solely to cattle, sheep and goats but not to non-domestic animals, even the permissible species.

“If one should pray: ‘You, Hashem, are merciful even to the nest of a bird,’ we bid him be silent” (Berachos 33b). Two reasons are given: 1) He explains the mitzvah as a mercy, but the release of the mother bird is a decree of Hashem which we fulfill as His servants and our intention is only to serve Him. 2) If the purpose was compassion, the same law should apply also to deer.

Hashem does not need our agency for mercy upon the mother bird, and He Himself can bestow His mercies without our aid. He gave us mitzvos to do His will, which is the highest achievement of mankind. Therefore we serve Him out of gratitude to our Creator. But the Creator gave us the mitzvos (which we do solely to serve Him) with the intention that we refine ourselves by means of His service (Vayikra Rabbah 13:3).

“Rabbi Shimlai taught: Torah begins with the doing of kindness and concludes with the doing of kindness” (Sotah 14a), which implies that all that is between the beginning and the end is also for kindliness. But the kindliness of which Rabbi Shimlai speaks is actually the kindness of Hashem to us, because the study of Hashem’s Torah and the fulfillment of His precepts are the very greatest forms of Hashem’s kindliness to us. And we learn that while we gain the perfection of doing the will of Hashem, we are also at the same time acquiring more perfect qualities of character, of which this mitzvah is one example.

The law (22:27) that prohibits a korban less than eight days old applies solely to offerings. For ordinary use, if we know the gestation had been full term, it may be slaughtered as soon as it is born (Shabbos 136a); otherwise we wait until the eighth day. The second law, that the mother and the offspring should not be slaughtered on the same day, applies also to non-korbanos. In the first case, if he transgressed and slaughtered before the eighth day the animal is not permissible to be eaten. In the second case, if he slaughtered the mother and offspring on the same day, we may eat them (the shochet must wait until the following day).

This commandment forbids the slaughter of the offspring and its mother even many years after the birth, when animals have already lost any awareness of kinship. Thus we perceive that Hashem gave this law because of His compassion for us – for we humans would consider it cruel to slaughter both the parent and the offspring in one day, even though the animals themselves have already lost any emotions of kinship. Thus it becomes evident that these are not laws to protect the emotions of the animals but rather to train the holy people in the character trait of compassion upon all His creatures.

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.

Insights From The Plague Of Leprosy

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Although the tzoraas affliction is no more in contemporary times, it teaches lessons that are eternal. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that foremost among these lessons is the greatness of Torah leaders and their wisdom. Another lesson: The opportunity the affliction presented to the afflicted for repentance and self-improvement.

“To Aharon the kohen or to one of his sons the kohanim. And the kohen should see the nega and the kohen shall shut up the [man of the] plague seven days” (13:2-4).

For the sake of brevity the verse could have stated, ”He should be brought to one of Aharon’s sons, the kohanim,” but we see that it is preferable that Aharon himself should be consulted if possible. We are hereby taught that we should always seek the most authoritative Torah opinion if it is available.

The leper is entirely dependent on the verdict of the kohen. He is brought to the kohen (13:2), and the kohen must see him (here, and 13:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 20, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 34, 36, 39, and 43); and similarly in the case of leprosy of garments and leprosy of a house, the kohen is constantly mentioned. Now the kohen becomes the central figure in this man’s life. No other lsraelite is as dependent on the kohen. (Even if a non-kohen is a great Torah scholar, he does not have the authority to declare the man unclean or to pronounce him clean [Negaim 3:1 and Arachin 3a]. Even an Elder of the Sanhedrin can do no more than to instruct the kohen, but the actual pronouncement must be made by the kohen.)

The benefit Hashem intended was to bring us into contact with the Torah teacher; and the most beneficial contact is with the greatest Torah teacher. Thus, when a question of kashrus arises, we should perceive that Hashem caused this question to arise in order that we meet the Torah sage who may have for us instruction and counsel even more important for us than the kashrus question.

When the sage is greater, the encounter with him is so much more valuable. “Righteousness, righteousness you should pursue” (Devarim 16:20); ”Go after the best beis din… after the sages in the Marble Chamber” (Sanhedrin 32b). Not only will the greatest sages give you the truest opinion, but their influence upon you will also be the most effective: “to Aharon the kohen.”

Each time the man came to the kohen with a heart hovering between hope and despair, we can be certain the kohen did not coldly render his decision but spoke words of encouragement and consolation and urged the man to exert himself in prayer and in repentance. After his contact with the holy son of Aharon, he certainly became a different person; and that indeed was Hashem’s intention in sending the plague upon him.

During his seven-day period of separation he is given the opportunity to repent. and thus he may be spared. “When a man sees that suffering comes upon him, let him search into his deeds” (Berachos 5a). The purpose of the plague, and of misfortunes in general, is to make men more aware of Hashem; and especially to remind them how great was Hashem’s kindliness hitherto that He had spared this man from such misfortune. “He that chastises nations, is He not showing something [or: is He not rebuking?], He that teaches Knowledge to man” (Tehillim 94:10).

This Knowledge has chiefly of two aspects: that Hashem conducts all the affairs of the world, and that He bestows happiness on mankind. Even now, in his misery, the leper is more blessed than chastised: if he is able to see, to talk, to think rationally, to walk, to eat and to sleep, he must learn to be grateful and to understand that the blessings are more than the suffering.

He now should repent and learn to thank Hashem for all the good days he had enjoyed hitherto but had failed in the function of singing in joy to Hashem; and he should even now be grateful for all that Hashem gives him in abundance. The leper should also find solace in the very great benefit that his plight causes others to fear Hashem.

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.

Pesach: Splitting The Sea

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

The miraculous splitting of the Sea of Reeds was one of the pinnacles of Israel’s closeness to Hashem. It raises a question, though: Why? Hashem typically hides His presence somewhat, conducting the world in a discrete way and never revealing His presence so openly. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, this spectacle on the Sea of Reeds was performed with two great purposes in mind.

“And the people feared Hashem, and they believed in Hashem and in Moshe his servant” (14:31). This means they put this lesson into their hearts, and they utilized it properly to cause themselves to be stirred by the miraculous spectacle of the splitting of the Sea and the destruction of Egypt, until they attained a very great measure of Fear of Hashem.

Before, the verse said “Israel saw”; now it says “the people feared.” “Israel” denotes that generation, “all of whom were full of deah (true knowledge)” who witnessed the Hand of Hashem.

“The people feared Hashem” refers also to the continuum of the nation in all ages. Because the nation of Israel saw and gained a clear awareness, the fear of Hashem became deeply rooted in their posterity forever; and also forever the people should endeavor to put the lesson of the sea to their hearts in order to regain and re-experience the enthusiastic awareness of Hashem (fear of Hashem) their ancestors gained on the shore of the sea.

Emunah (belief) fundamentally means “steadfastness”: to remain in one place and not to move away. “His hands were steadfast (emunah) until sunset” (17:12). “He does not remain still (lo yaamin) at the sound of the shofar” (Iyov 39:24). They remained forever steadfast in loyalty to Him, in their trust in Him and in their service to Him, and they never forsook this loyalty (i.e. there always will be a nation of loyal Jews). “And they believed in (were loyal to) Hashem” forever.

The belief in Moshe was the cause of loyalty to the Torah, called Toras Moshe throughout the Holy Scriptures, because the people heard the Torah of Hashem from the mouth of Moshe. This is the pathway of righteousness: from belief (loyalty) in Hashem one progresses to the Torah of Moshe.

However, we see “the people believed” (4:31) already when they had witnessed the signs which Moshe and Aharon had performed. After seeing such convincing miracles, would any doubt have been possible? We see, therefore, that emunah is not mere conviction but rather a state of perfection of the mind which has unlimited potential development. Every additional degree of this quality, which we shall call awareness, is a very great gift from Hashem.

The episode of the Sea of Suf was a grand opportunity whereby Israel gained a higher degree of emunah, and for this superlative gift they sang their song of thanks to Hashem. But even this degree of awareness they now received was a preface to a still higher degree of emunah that was yet to come (the revelation at Sinai).

This grand spectacle of the Sea of Suf was thus intended by Hashem for two purposes: 1) that the people of Israel should forever believe in Hashem, and 2) that they should forever believe in the greatness of Moshe His servant (which means: to believe in Moshe as the chief servant of Hashem).

The belief in the excellence of Moshe is the foundation of belief in “this Torah which Moshe put before the sons of Israel” (Devarim 4:44), so that subsequently no man could claim he was privileged with greater prophecy than Moshe possessed and attempt to abrogate the Torah of Moshe or propose substitutes.

The entire episode could have been rendered unnecessary had Hashem caused Pharaoh and his generals to become ill before they set out to pursue Israel. But this spectacle was performed so that the nation would witness how Hashem “split the sea before Moshe” (“Stretch your hand over the sea and split it” – 14:16), in order that they believe in Moshe His servant.

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.

Tzav: Holiness And Eating

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

The evil inclination likes to tempt us to indulge in material delights. It is important to know that these delights may have another purpose, too: kedushah (holiness).

As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, the fact that kohanim were commanded to consume the korbanos offered in the Temple reveals that eating itself has a highly spiritual function. When done in the right measure and with the right intentions, eating is very much an act of holiness and service of Hashem.

“In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the Ohel Moed” (6:19).

Kadshe kadashim, the more sacred offerings, such as the chattas (and the asham – 7:6) are eaten only by kohanim and only in the Court of the Sanctuary.

Thus the Torah states, “It is holy of holies” here (6:18) and regarding the asham (7:6). The minchah also, as stated in 6:10-11, is holy of holies and is eaten by kohanim in the Court (6:9) of the Sanctuary. A very great principle is derived from this procedure: “The kohanim eat and (thereby) the owner gains atonement” (Pesachim 59b).

Actually, the atonement is completed at the sprinkling of the blood on the mizbeach; even the offering of the korban on the fire is an additional mitzvah, which if not fulfilled does not invalidate the korban. Yet the offering of the parts on the fire is indeed a very important part of the service, which has many details of laws and procedure.

Now we also learn that the eating on the part of the kohanim is one of the forms of offering the korban; and like the offerings on the fire, that which is eaten also enhances the quality of the atonement. When the kohen eats in the sacred precincts, he becomes an altar; and the physical pleasure of ingesting the sacred offering is compared to the fire on the mizbeach. Certainly, he should eat with holy intention. But he may not swallow pieces that are not chewed because achilah gasah (an abnormal manner of eating) is against Torah law. He must chew and enjoy the sacred food, and despite the unavoidable pleasure he adds the intention of the service of the offering to Hashem.

Let us not underestimate the value of Hashem’s teachings. The fact that we, “the nation of kohanim” (Shemos 1 9:6) eat matzah on Pesach night with appetite is not a blemish on our mitzvah; on the contrary, we are admonished to refrain from much food during the day in order to eat the matzah with more appetite (Pesachim 99b) “because it is an honor for the mitzvah” (RSHI). The body of the kohen is sacred enough to consume kadshei kadashim but the body of every Israelite is also endowed with such holiness that it may consume kadashim kalim such as shlamim and todah and similar sacrifices.

The Sages derived even more from this principle: “He that desires to pour wine-offerings on the altar, let him fill the throats of talmidei chachamim with wine” (Yoma 71a). We learn the extremely valuable principle that eating with proper intention is a service to Hashem, and may even be considered as a form of kedushah (Mesillas Yesharim Ch. 26). In this are two elements: 1) the holy Intention, 2) and the holiness of the body of the eater.

The karbanos of lesser degree (shlamim, todah, and maaser b’hemah), which all Israelites could eat, were however permissible to eat only in Jerusalem: “And you shall bring there your olos and your z’vachirn and your maasros…and you shall eat there before Hashem your G-d” (Devarim 12:5). Thus even when the Israelite eats of the korban he is performing a holy service and therefore it must be done before Hashem.

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.

Vayakhel/Pekudei: The Devotion Of Women

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

“And he made the laver of copper and its base of copper, from the mirrors of (the women) who congregated at the entrance to the tent meeting” (38:8).

“The tent of meeting” mentioned here is the tent mentioned previously: “And Moshe took the tent and he pitched it on the side the camp far from the camp, and he called it ohel moed [tent of meeting]; and it was that everyone that sought Hashem would go out to the tent” (33:8). It was at this tent of Moshe that women congregated in great number, for they were seekers of Hashem. (The word “congregated” here is zav’u, from the word va which means “a host” or “army,” as in “And the heavens and earth and all their host were completed” – Bereishis 2:1).

This noteworthy enthusiasm of the women seeking Hashem is mentioned here only incidentally without any comment. We are therefore justified in understanding also that a multitude of men congregated near this tent because they too were seekers of Hashem.

The women’s mirrors were given especial preference as a source of copper, because they entailed a sacrifice of considerable magnitude inasmuch as all women use mirrors.

There was another aspect that made the mirrors worthy of preference for the laver (kiyor). Just as the laver provided water for washing the hands and feet as a preparation for the service of Hashem, so also had the mirrors served as preparation for the service of Hashem. Israel views the function of procreation with the most profound respect. The especial devotion of the women of Israel to the ideal of producing a nation for the service of Hashem had made these mirrors an essential factor in encouraging procreation in Egypt when the sons of Israel were being crushed under the heel of oppression.

Like the kiyor, the mirrors had served as preparation for the most noble service of creating the nation of Hashem’s servants. By means of these mirrors the women had beautified themselves in order to restore the spirits of their broken and downtrodden husbands, and thus the children of Israel continued to increase despite the heavy oppression.

In verse 35:22 we read: “Everyone generous of heart brought bracelets and earrings and rings and beads, all jewels of gold.” These are all women’s ornaments, which implies that the women willingly parted with their personal ornaments for the sake of the Mishkan.

We are taught here that just as the laver is essential as preparation for the service of Hashem, so also (and even more fundamentally) is the institution of marriage and begetting children and rearing them to adulthood a most essential preparation for Hashem’s service. Actually, marriage and children are in themselves the major forms of service to Hashem: “Was the world not created but for the purpose of piryah and rivyah” (Gittin 4 1B).

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/vayakhelpekudei-the-devotion-of-women/2012/03/14/

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