B'OHALEI TZADDIKIM is dedicated to
Mr. Norman Osherman
of Chicago, IL / Bradenton, FL
on the occasion of his birthday
March 17, 1999
May he be blessed with good health
and continue to have nachas
from his children and grandchildren
PAYING THE PRICE
The Book of Vayikra (Leviticus), contains some of the most difficult subjects in the Torah. The concept of sacrifices is one that is very foreign. There are some important lessons to use in our Avodas Hashem.
"Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, when a man from you will offer up a sacrifice to G-d, from the cattle, herds or flocks should the sacrifice be brought." (Vayikra 1:2)
The Midrash however, rereads the verse to give us a deeply challenging insight. The new reading is as follows: "Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, when a man will offer up a sacrifice -- FROM YOU, shall be an offering to Hashem...." Hashem wants us, not just our sacrifices.
In fact, every sacrifice had to be accompanied by genuine repentance before it was accepted. The Cohen/Priest was able to tell if the person was sincere in his feelings. If not, he would signal to the administering Levites to sing a soul stirring melody that would arouse the sacrificer to genuine repentance. Only then could the sacrifice become acceptable.
Only when one gives up something of himself, does he make a sacrifice that is pleasing to Hashem.
A FAMOUS STORY ABOUT SELF SACRIFICE
THE HOLY MISER
The richest man in Cracow had just died and nobody wanted to attend to his funeral preparations. He had always lived as in exile in his own city. He never gave money to the poor. He had for years turned away every appeal for Tzedakah that had come his way. He had consistently ignored his community for years. They called him Shiya the Kamtzan (miser). He had no children. Before his death he had called the Burial Society, but they refused to bury him unless he gave them a certain amount that they could give to the poor. He refused. So he died, and they just left his body alone in the house. Finally, after several days, a neighbor took pity on him and buried him at the edge of the graveyard.
Soon afterwards, the Rav of the city, R' Yom Tov Lipman, started to see a lack in community funds. Numerous poor families began coming to him for help. When called by the head of the charity committee, he learned that an unprecedented number of families were looking for funds to meet Shabbos expenses.
R' Yom Tov Lipman began to investigate. As he questioned each petitioner, a pattern emerged. The "envelope"! Each one had the same story. Every Friday morning there was an envelope that had been slipped underneath the front door, with just enough money inside to cover the week's expenses. How long had this been going on? Each one again told the same story. He had been to see Shiya the Kamtzan, who had interrogated him thoroughly as to his family size, needs etc., then had thrown him out of the house empty-handed with a violent warning never to dare beg from him again. Soon afterwards, the envelopes appeared.
R' Yom Tov Lipman was gripped with an uncontrollable trembling as he realized the stark truth, that nobody had ever known. Shiya the Kamtzan had been supporting Cracow for years, secretly. not wanting to derive any benefit from his mitzvos. In order to do that, he gave up friends, community, anything that resembled normal life.
R' Yom Tov Lipman called for all the residents of Cracow's Jewry to assemble the next evening in the Central Synagogue. R' Yom Tov Lipman began to wail, "Shiya, Shiya, Holy Shiya. How can we stand before your memory? How can we possibly beg your forgiveness?!
The Rav revealed to all the real story of Shiya the Kamtzan. He requested in his last will and testament that he buried outside the graveyard, next to Shiya. And he also had the headstone changed. On the grave of the miser it is now inscribed "Shiya HaKamtzan HaKodesh." (The Holy One)
BIRCAS HA'ILANOS - THE BLESSING OVER TREES IN BLOOM
Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the beginning of Aviv (spring), ushers in the season when we say Bircas Ha'Ilanos, the blessing upon seeing fruit trees (only) in bloom.
This is a special brachoh since it is recited only once a year. In it we praise Hashem's ongoing renewal of creation. The Brachoh is as follows:
"Blessed be You . . . .King of the World, whose world is not lacking for anything, and He created in it good creations and good trees for the benefit of mankind." (See your Siddur for the Hebrew.)
Bircas Ha'Ilanos is recited immediately upon seeing a tree in bloom during the month of Nissan (unless like this year), Rosh Chodesh Nissan falls on Shabbos. (The growth of leaves alone is not sufficient to allow one say the brachoh.)
One who saw the trees in bloom during Nissan, but forgot or neglected to recite the brachoh, may recite the brachoh only until the time that the fruit of the tree has begun to grow.
Ideally, Bircas Ha'Ilanos should be recited with a minyan of 10, outside of the city limits and only on two or more trees. There are those who hold that these two trees should be of two different species. Reading for before and after the brachoh are found in the Siddurim.
According to Kabbolah, this brachoh has special significance. It should therefore, be said with intense concentration and kavannah (intention).
". . .See (said Yitzchok of Yaacov), the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field which Hashem has blessed." (Bereishis 27:27) It is brought down, that this verse refers to one who recites the Bircas Ha'Ilanos with the proper intention.
(Ben Ish Chai, Orach Chayim, 8:14)
By making this brachoh it is possible to redeem the souls who have been re-incarnated in the realm of Tzomeach (vegetation), and make it possible for them to continue or complete their Tikkun (soul rectification).
(Ben Ish Chai, Orach Chayim, 7:5)
PESACH, THE FEAST OF FAITH (EMUNAH)
The essence of Pesach is Emunah (faith and confidence in the personal providence of Hashem). And the night of the seder is a time of revelation of the Divine Presence. It is the New Year for Emunah.
Pharoah claimed, "I don't know who this Hashem is!" We, on the seder night, in a bold act of counterbalancing, affirm our belief and trust in Hashem's providence and the process of moving from slavery to freedom. The clarity of this process is such that even the Egyptians experienced it, "And Egypt will know that I am Hashem. . ." (Shemos 7:5) And since the purpose of the Exodus from Egypt was to arrive at Mt. Sinai and to receive the Torah, it is no wonder that the first of the Ten Commandments is the mitzvoh of Emunah.
"I am Hashem your G-d who brought you out of Egypt from the house of slavery." (Shemos 20:2)
The true measure of an Oved Hashem is not his Torah learning nor his precision in doing mitzvohs. It is the purity and clarity of his Emunah. There is no limit to how much one may clarify and increase one's Emunah. "It is praiseworthy to expound on and draw out the story of the Exodus from Egypt." Even if we were all wise and learned, it would still be incumbent upon us to relate the story of the Exodus from Egypt." Implanting Emunah is something which has no bounds, you can never acquire too much and the process is a lifetime pursuit. The more you tell the story, the more the Emunah. It is the special opportunity of the seder night.
The Torah makes a puzzling statement after B'nei Yisroel came out from the Red Sea which had been split asunder. ". . .and they believed in Hashem and in Moshe his servant." (Shemos 14:31) Why does the Torah tell us this now? After they witnessed the miracle of the plagues in Egypt and went through the sea where even an unlearned maidservant had a prophetic vision of greater clarity than the prophet Ezekiel. The explanation is that Emunah is beyond the attainment of spiritual levels. When levels level out, Emunah keeps on growing. Even after great spiritual achievements there is room for more Emunah.
With this is mind we can decipher a seemingly incomprehensible passage in the Haggadah. The Haggadah opens,
"Ha Lachma Anya. This bread which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt; let anyone who is hungry, come and partake; let anyone who is needy, come and share our Pesach. Now we are here, next year we will be in Eretz Yisroel. Now we are slaves, next year we will be free citizens."
What are the meanings of the various sections of this passage and what are their connection one to the other? Why were they selected to be the introduction to the Haggadah? Why do we say that this is the Matzoh which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt? Is not matzoh the is symbol of the redemption? (They ate matzoh since they didn't have time to let the dough rise in their haste to leave Egypt.) And why do we invite all who are hungry to come and eat? Aren't we talking to those who are already seated at the table? It would have been better to make this announcement earlier in Shul in the presence of all who came to davven. And why are we already looking forward to being in Israel next year when we are only at the beginning of the Haggadah?
Based on what we already know, that the seder night is an auspicious time for rooting in pure, clear Emunah, we can explain this passage of Ha Lachma Anya. (You'll never open your Maxwell House Haggadah again.) It explains the reason for telling the story of the Shemos which we are about to begin, and it is a radical departure from the more well known "historical recollection" thread.
"This bread which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt", refers to matzoh, lechem oni, poor man's bread. It hints to us the idea of clear, straightforward Emunah, which like the matzoh that is just plain and simple flour with water that has not risen, is likewise without feelings of personal accomplishment.
"Which our ancestors ate in Egypt". Only by rooting in this pure and clear Emunah can real redemption take place.
"Let anyone who is hungry, come and partake". Let anyone who is hungry; not for bread but for Hashem's path and for a feeling of closeness with the Creator, come and take part of our feast of faith (emunah). Let him partake of our poor man's bread; pure, straightforward Emunah. On the seder night, Emunah is dished out in limitless quantity to all who wish to partake. At the seder we partake of only Emunah, and not of lofty spiritual attainments. But with this Emunah one can acquire the means to ascend in every realm of Avodas Hashem.
"Let anyone who is needy, come and share our Pesach". Let anyone who desires to acquire some of the spiritual levels that the rest of the holiday of Pesach has to offer, come first to feast on pure, simple and clear Emunah, for it is the springboard to every level.
"Now we are here", - estranged and in exile, yet our Emunah is our essence and life force.
"Next year we will be in Eretz Yisroel", - and likewise, our Emunah will continue to be our essence and life force.
"Now we are slaves", - and in a desperate condition.
"Next year we will be free citizens", - and still, Emunah will be the essence of our lives. We will always endeavor implant in ourselves pure, clear Emunah. As the Baal Shem Tov stated near the end of his life, "After all the spiritual achievements I have accomplished, in the end I always return to Emunah peshuta, pure, clear and uncorrupted Emunah.
This is the introduction to the Haggadah and the seder night, our feast of Emunah.
(Adapted from Sefer Nesivos Shalom vol. 2, pp. 235-6)
BEFORE YOU BEGIN THE SEDER
A Letter to his followers before Pesach 5699 (1939) from Rebbe Kalonymus Kalman (h.y.d.) of Piasceztna
My dear ones, I am calling to you and speaking to your souls. The Holy days of Pesach are approaching. The holiness of these days infuses us thoroughly; inside and out. Their light fills us and encompasses us.
Nevertheless it is stated, "Ohr zarua laTzaddik, U' l'Yishrei lev simcha. / Light is sown for the righteous and there is joy for the upright of heart." (Psalms 97:11). Light is like a seedling; at the beginning it requires our nurturing and our efforts to foster its growth. Like a field needs plowing and hoeing, weeding and watering, so do we need to prepare ourselves before the festival. Without the preparation, there can be no joy, no growth and no light. With all the preparations needed for the festival, we must be careful not do divert our attention from ourselves, not to forget to draw down the Holiness of the season.
The main aspect of the festival is to be joyful; to praise and glorify Hashem for all the miracles and all the goodness. This is actually the purpose of the entire creation and the essence of the relationship between the earthly creation and the heavenly family above.
When the time comes for the Pesach evening Ma'ariv prayer, you should rejoice in your tremendous fortune, in the great privilege you have to be engaged in the Avodah of Pesach. You should say to yourself, "My joy is without bounds that I have been granted the opportunity to achieve my purpose in the world and to be elevated to the upper spheres. True I have my problems, both material and spiritual, but for now I discard them, the entire world is longer important to me. I even nullify my own self in order to stand in the company of angels, awaiting the presence of Hashem. My only thought is to praise and glorify His great name and to draw down the Holy splendor of Hashem's light into the world, into my own soul and into the souls of my family."
Your joy should so exalted that you feel that you can barely hold yourself back from breaking into an ecstatic dance; leaping from the earth to the heavens.
Afterwards when you sit at the seder table, you imagine yourself sitting down to a festive meal in Gan Eden (paradise) itself, participating in the celebration of the final redemption. All of the aspects of the seder, eating the matzo and maror, drinking the four cups of wine, and reciting the Haggadah, Hallel and other songs of praise, comprise a holy service to Hashem. The angels above are crowded around to hear our praises of Hashem. Even Hashem himself rejoices in delight, as is known from the esoteric literature, as He receives our praise and song. A Jew has the ability to feel Hashem's delight with each word that he utters from the Haggadah. He is imbued with such holiness that he is replete with sorrow when he finishes each word; if only he could go back and recite the Hallel another 1000 times, he would do so. His whole being is at one with his Creator as he recites words of incredible sweetness; the Haggadah lying open in front of him. One must endeavor to provide sanctuary for the holiness of this night, so that it will abide by him for the whole year.
. . .Continue to foster your love for your fellow Jew for that is the hinge on which all divine service revolves. . . I bless you with . . .a Kosher and joyous Pesach.
(from Sefer Derech HaMelech, letters, p. 409)
PESACH, MATZO, MAROR
The first Gerrer Rebbe, known as the Chiddushei HaRim, asked, "How can it be that Maror being a symbol of the slavery is preceded by the Matzoh the symbol of redemption? The order is wrong, it should be the other way around." He answered with a parable from the Rav R' Simcha Bunem of Pirshicha.
Once there was a King who had an only son. The King loved him deeply and showered him with affection and presents. The son however did not know how to show gratitude to his father and became quite spoiled. The King, wishing to teach him a lesson and turn him around for the good exiled him from the Kingdom.
After a number of years, the King became overwhelmed with mercy for his son and wished him to return. He sent out a royal emissary, an important and trusted minister to search the Kingdom for his son. After an arduous journey, the minister located the young man in a remote farming village, barefoot and dressed in rags, in residence at the local pub and thoroughly drunk.
"Ho, Ho How are you? I've been looking for you for so long!", the ministered stammered in disbelief. "Wonderful, splendid!", replied the drunken son. "If only I had a pair of boots and a fleece jacket, nobody in the world would be happier than I!"
The minister was crestfallen. How far the boy had degenerated. He had totally forgotten his royal upbringing. His is only desires were mundane, his only concern his physical needs.
In Psalm 106, the Psalm that recounts the Exodus from Egypt, King David writes, "And he saw their distress when he heard their song." (v. 44) Yisroel was sunk deep into slavery, yet they were singing! The apex of slavery is when the slave becomes reconciled to his situation and no longer desires freedom.
"Therefore", explained the Chiddushei HaRim, "Matzoh, which represents freedom and redemption, precedes Maror, the symbol of enslavement. It is to remind us not to forget how far into servitude Yisroel had descended. Until they were redeemed, they didn't even realize the real bitterness of the slavery.
This Pesach, may we all come out of the darkness into the light.
Any Questions? Comments?