Brachos 2-8

Brachos 2: Torah and Tefillah
Rashi on today’s daf writes that a person should stand in prayer amidst divrei Torah.

A young baal teshuvah was very incommoded by his resentful parents. He could leave his home to go to the shteibel at Zichron Moshe for exactly an hour a day. Should he go to daven with the minyan and learn at home? Or would going to the Daf Yomi shiur be the better choice even if it meant davening at home?

When Rav Michel Gutfarb zt”l was very ill, he was faced with a similar dilemma. He could not spend too much time in shul because of his intense pain. He also wondered whether he should go to the shiur or to minyan.

Naturally, he asked Rav Yaakov Yisroel Fisher zt”l, the famous dayan and rov of Zichron Moshe. But even when Rav Fisher ruled that he should go to the Daf Yomi shiur and daven at home, he still felt uncomfortable, so he sent someone to ask Rav Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv zt”l. “He should go to Daf Yomi,” he ruled with obvious reluctance.

But when the young baal teshuvah sent the same messenger to ask Rav Elyashiv about his situation, he ruled differently. “It is certainly better for him to go to minyan,” he said.

When the messenger asked Rav Elyashiv to explain the difference between the cases, he did so without pausing. “This young man needs to be trained in the importance of tefillah – that without a proper davening,there is no Torah,” explained Rav Elyashiv. “Let him learn at home. Rav Michel, on the other hand, knows the importance of tefillah and will daven with kavanah at home. He will not be able to learn well, however because he is ill. He should therefore come to the shiur.”[1]

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Brachos 3: The Snake at the Entry

One Erev Shabbos, a car with a loudspeaker went around Bnei Brak blaring a shocking message from the Israeli police. “According to our information, a terrorist may be in the area. We request that everyone go inside their homes and lock their doors!”

As one talmid chochom hurried to his house, he passed a shul that was open to the street and noticed someone in the middle of Shemonah Esrei. The man was clearly unaware that anything had happened. Naturally, the talmid chochom wondered whether he should tap this man or try to disturb him in some other way so that he would also leave the area.

When this question reached Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, he based his response on a statement from today’s daf. “In Brachos 3, we find that when Eliyahu Hanovi noticed Rav Yosi praying in a place that was dangerous, he waited for Rav Yosi to finish his tefillah before speaking to him. The Iyun Yaakov wonders why he waited. After all, presumably, if there is a danger, Eliyahu should have interrupted his prayer. However, Eliyahu understood that although there is some danger, it is still improper to disturb one who is in the middle of Shemonah Esrei. This could be compared to a person whose leg is being encircled by a snake. One may only move if it is life-threatening.

Rav Zilberstein concluded, “While it is true that a person who realizes he is in danger is permitted to interrupt his Shemonah Esrei, who says that it is permitted to interrupt one who is so focused on his tefillah that he did not hear the police warning at all?”[2]

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Brachos 4: “I Do Not Know…”

Rav Simcha Zissel Levovitz zt”l was a walking Sefer Torah. Every motion and even thought of his was guided by the words of our sages. When he established his yeshiva in America, he taught many talmidim, building their acumen in Torah along with their middos. Whenever someone would ask him a question in learning, he would first reply, “I am not sure.” Only after that would he begin to analyze the question until he replied with a deep answer.

As we find on today’s daf, one should develop the habit of saying, “I don’t know.” Rashi explains that in this manner one will not stumble in his words. Rav Levovitz’s students felt that his deferential words were meant to convey that the Torah is very deep and, even if we have what to say, we surely have not truly plumbed the matter to its depths. Although many of his students are today roshei yeshiva and marbitzei Torah, they recall with gratitude this seminal lesson that Rav Levovitz imparted to them with every single question he was asked in learning.[3]

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Brachos 5: The Rewards of Suffering

The Bais Yisroel of Gur zt”l was known for the powerful chizuk that he imparted to all who knew him. A person might feel the anguish of his suffering before speaking with the tzaddik, but afterward, the petitioner would feel as though new life had been breathed into him.

In one of his letters he wrote: “…When I communicated with your son, it came out that you are suffering greatly. It seems as though these pains are ‘yissurim shel ahavah,’ since you have continued to learn with great strength despite them. Nevertheless, it is certainly striking that when our sages were confronted with pain, they said, ‘Neither them nor their reward.’ I heard that earlier chassidim would read the phrase differently: ‘When one says ‘no’ to his suffering, rejects it and does not accept it, he is left with ‘hein,’ he suffers all the same, ‘velo sechoron,’but does not receive reward. My father, the Imrei Emes zt”l, also explained another anecdote from that same daf. We find that there were tzaddikim who ‘stretched forth their hands’ and healed others. If a person stretches out his hand and accepts the suffering with grace and with no complaint against theAibeshter, he is healed. May Hashem help you from now on, and may you merit to learn Torah and see much nachas from your children and grandchildren. I love you and await your complete recovery…”[4]

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Brachos 6: Changing Colors

When Rav Boruch Avrohom Halberstam zt”l was thirteen, he went to learn in Bobov, where his uncle, the Kedushas Tzion zt”l, resided. Although he remained in Bobov for several months and learned with intense diligence, he never had a chance to spend time with the rebbe. Whenever the rebbe spent time with people, he would usually be found with those who were broken or weak. He would spend hours giving chizuk and commiserating with their pain. Sometimes, he would spend long periods encouraging a bochur in yiras Shomayim or to learn with greater hasmodah.

One day, the young Boruch Avrohom received word that his mother had given birth to a boy. He figured that this was the perfect pretext to begin a conversation with the rebbe, but when he went to the rebbe’s room, another weaker bochur was already there speaking with his uncle and he was forced to wait outside. He waited patiently for two hours, since he figured that the rebbe would make time for him as well. But when his turn came, the rebbe hardly said a thing. “Mazel tov,” he replied tersely and then sat in silence. After a minute or two of this, Boruch Avrohom left.

A few hours later, the rebbe called him to his room. When he entered, the rebbe began to ask particulars about him and they had a very satisfying conversation. The rebbe apologized for his early silence and said, “The bochur who was here before you spent two hours speaking of his terrible pain. It should be no wonder that I didn’t have the strength to offer more than a mazel tov to you after this.  When the pain went away, I immediately sent for you. Our sages explain that when a person is ‘nitztoreich’to people, his face changes. He has to suit himself to them. The word nitztoreich seems strange, since, on a simple level, it means someone who needs others. The proper word for that is nitzroch, though. The word nitztoreich refers to a person who is needed by others. This teaches that one who is needed by others must commiserate with their suffering – or joy – even though this means that his face changes colors. Sometimes, one cannot immediately switch from sorrow to joy. He must wait until he settles himself!”[5]

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Brachos 7: One Good Word

As is well known, our sages say that the very air of Eretz Yisroel makes one wise. Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk zt”l was famous for his unswerving and constant search for the truth, especially in his relationship with Hashem through prayer. Those who saw him in tefillah felt as if they were in the presence of a young child pouring his heart out before his loving Father. Yet, before he immigrated to Eretz Yisroel, he would say, “If only I would one day recite an entire tefillah with absolute honesty!”

After his aliyah to the land, he realized that even that goal was very lofty. The spiritual atmosphere of Eretz Yisroel brought him even greater clarity and humility, and he changed his stated aspiration: “In the course of my life I would like to say one word with kavanah.” A single word uttered with true dveikus must be very great.

The Amshinover Rebbe of America zt”l explained this in the context of today’s daf. “In Brachos 7 we find that Hashem’s wrath lasts an instant. Tosafos there wonders what Bilaam could have said in an instant that was so terrible. He explains that Bilaam could have said, “Kaleim – Destroy them.” Chazal taught that the good is stronger than the bad. If one bad word can do so much damage, who can tell what the effect of one good word is?”[6]

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Brachos 8: Living in the Land

Moving to Eretz Yisroel is a very serious step. Over one hundred years ago, this move was fraught with danger as well. Not only could one easily be killed on the way, but he also had to brave the privations of living in the Holy Land. It was so bad there that some authorities actually ruled that one should not go unless he had enough money put away to sustain him for the duration of his stay.[7] Although today it is much easier than it was in earlier times, there was a long period when it was literally a life-or-death decision.

A certain simple man who had money put aside asked Rav Elimelech Shapira of Grodzisk, the father of the Piascetzna Rebbe zt”l, whether he was permitted to go to Eretz Yisroel. Rav Shapira replied, “I am sorry, but I am afraid that you are not on the level.”

When the petitioner asked the tzaddik why, he answered, “The Zohar Hakadosh tells us that for one who lives outside the land, the two days of Yom Tov are cumulative. This means that the second day imparts more spiritual influence than the first. One who lives in Eretz Yisroel must be on a high enough level that he is able to receive everything he needs on the first day of Yom Tov. I am afraid that if you won’t be on this level, you will need a second day of Yom Tov but will not have one!”[8]

When another Yid who had money asked Rav Moshe Leib of Sassov zt”l if he should move to Eretz Yisroel, the tzaddik provided a means of determining whether the move was appropriate. “In Brachos 8 we find that the shuls in Bavel have the holiness of Eretz Yisroel. This means that if one comports himself with such holiness that he can live with his household in a shul, he may go to Eretz Yisroel. If not, he is not yet on the level to live in the Holy Land!”[9]

 

 



[1]Chashukei Chemed, Brachos, p. 27-28

[2]Aleinu Leshabei’ach, Devorim, Part I, p. 556-557

[3]Daas Torah, Bereishis p. 21-22

[4]Pe’er Yisroel, Part II, p. 206

[5]Bais Tzaddikim Ya’amod, Part I, p. 64

[6]Yemos Olam, p. 102

[7]See Peleh Yo’etz, Eretz Yisroel. This is also the shittah of the Chasam Sofer.

[8]Emunas Yisroel, Pesach,p. 168

[9] Shosheles Spinka, p. 338