SHABBOS 114: THE GARMENTS OF A SCHOLAR
Rav Aharon Levin zt”l offers a deep explanation of a famous statement of Chazal.
“The Akeidas Yitzchok on Parshas Ki Sisa writes that one’s ‘garments’ allude to his middos. The statement on Shabbos 114 that a talmid chochom with a stain on his garments is chayov misah should be understood in that light. The meforshim explainthat a talmid chochom whose actions and middos are unseemly or unclean has a great spiritual blemish. His sin is unbearable, since he is a disgrace to his Torah and perpetually profanes Hashem’s Name.
“On Shabbos 14, we find that one who holds a Sefer Torah barehanded will be buried unclothed. This, too, alludes to one who delves into Torah ‘barehanded’: he lacks appropriate garments, middos, to enrobe his Torah. One who lacks middos and manners and fails to correct this flaw will bear the bitter consequences of his sin.”
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l was fond of quoting the words of the Kotzker Rebbe regarding a talmid chochom who has a stain on his garments: “The word for stain, revav, has a numerical value of 204, the same as the word tzaddik. We see that one who is a tzaddik only on his ‘garment,’ his outer crust, is no talmid chochom at all…” (Hadrush Veha’iyun, Part I, p. 179; Yeshurun, Nissan 5765, p. 459).
SHABBOS 115: THE INTACT YERIYAH
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein recounted. “On Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5755, an older woman brought a precious relic from the Holocaust to Bais Dovid, our bais medrash in Cholon. It was one of the parchments of a Sefer Torah that had been ripped by the Nazis, yemach shemom. The yeriah was completely intact, but we wondered what we should do with it. Some thought that it would be most appropriate to donate it to a museum to display it to show our victory over the Nazis and to demonstrate the eternity of Torah despite the harshest conditions imaginable. But we wondered if this was prohibited. After all, we find inShabbos 115 that it is forbidden to shame holy writings. Perhaps it should be buried next to a talmid chochom, just like the halacha of a Sefer Torah, which requires genizah.”
When Rav Zilberstein asked his father-in-law, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, what to do with this parchment, he replied decisively: “Since this yeriah is complete, it should not be put in genizah, since it can be used if a Torah missing only that particular panel would be found. Although this is unlikely, it is enough for us to keep the yeriah intact. As far as displaying it in a museum, it depends how it is displayed. It is certainly forbidden to put it in glass and display the writing that way, since this constitutes a bizayon. It is permitted to roll up the parchment, however, and to put it in a glass case and display that instead” (Chashukei Chemed, Shabbos, p. 562-563).
SHABBOS 116: THE GREATNESS OF PEACE
Rav Aharon Rosenfeld zt”l, the previous rebbe of Pinsk-Karlin, brought a powerful proof to the vital necessity of peace.
“On Shabbos 115, we find that Hashem allowed His great Name to be erased to make peace between man and wife. We must think about this fact to understand its message to us. Who receives the ‘bitter water’ of a sotah? It is the woman who ignored her husband’s warning, a woman who is suspected that being alone with another will bring her to serious sin. Such a woman would usually be on a very low spiritual level. Nevertheless, to make peace between her and her husband, Hashem commands us to dissolve a parchment with His Name on it. We see the astounding greatness of making peace for every Jew, no matter what his or her spiritual level.”
Rav Yaakov Kamenetzsky zt”l explained why this suspected woman was brought to the kohein and given the bitter water in the first place: “When suspicion enters the heart of a husband, it is very difficult for him to remove it. For this reason, Hashem decreed that we erase His Name to make a miraculous test of her innocence. In this manner, every shadow of a doubt is removed from the husband’s heart so that they can live in harmony” (Mateh Aharon, Erev Rosh Hashanah 5762, p. 2; B’mechitzas Rabbeinu, p. 155).
SHABBOS 117: THE DOUBLE PORTION OF HOLINESS
The Sheim MiShmuel provides an intriguing explanation of the connection between Shabbos and monn.
“In Shabbos 117, we find that we have a mitzvah to break bread on lechem mishnah every Shabbos to commemorate the monn. The monn was a spiritual food that was lowered into a material form to sustain the body. As we find in Yoma 75, the ministering angels eat monn. The Arizal teaches that the food eaten on Shabbos is completely holy, unlike food eaten during the week. This means that food eaten on Shabbos in a pure holy spirit is completely holy, much like the monn eaten by our ancestors in the desert. If one eats with sufficient focus and holiness, he imbues this holiness into the six days of the week, uplifting what he eats during the weekdays as well.
“This explains why the double portion of monn fell on Friday, not Shabbos. It was only in the merit of their eating in purity on Shabbos that they received the monn in the first place. Similarly, in our times, one who eats with purity on Shabbos uplifts what he eats the entire week” (Sheim MiShmuel, Parshas Beshalach).
SHABBOS 118: THE HEART’S DESIRE
The Kotzker Rebbe wondered aloud about the meaning of a powerful promise to one who keeps Shabbos.
“In Shabbos 118, we find that one who delightson Shabbos will be granted all the desires of his heart. But we find in Sefer Yetzirah that oneg is the highest level one can achieve. If one touches this on Shabbos,how can he have any other interests or desires? He has already reached the apex; what more could he want?”
The Sheim MiShmuel clarifies the rhetorical question posed by his grandfather.
“We can resolve this question in light of the word mishalos, ‘the heart’s desires,’ discussed in Shabbos 118. Mishalos does really mean desires. It means requests. This doesn’t mean that one who reaches this level will receive his heart’s desire in the conventional sense. As the Rebbe points out, he has already reached the highest place. It means that he will attain the ability to ask Hashem and know what to request from the Creator of all things.”
It is sometimes surprising to meet people with unshakable emunas chachomim but who lack commitment to observing the Torah. When such people go to tzaddikim for brachos, they really believe that the blessing of the tzaddik will assist them, yet they fail to understand that the Torah itself is the ultimate blessing!
When such folks would visit Rav Mordechai of Slonim zt”l for a bracha, he would tell them to fulfill a mitzvah they did not do, most often Shabbos or tefillin. Once, when he told a simple fellow that Hashem will help if he begins to keep Shabbos, the impudent man demanded a source for this. “My source is the beginning of the Tur in Shabbos. He rules like the Gemara that one who has oneg on Shabbos will receive his heart’s desires. You should know that the earlier sages were very great tzaddikim. If they said it, it is surely true. ‘One’s heart’s desires’ includes everything!” (Sheim MiShmuel, Vayeira; Ma’amar Mordechai, Part I, p. 24).
SHABBOS 119: PARTNER IN CREATION
During the Shabbos of Chol Hamoed Sukkos 5703, the situation looked very bleak for the Jews in Eretz Yisroel. The German army appeared to be conquering the African continent on their way to Eretz Yisroel.
Not surprisingly, when Rav Efraim Zalman Halperin zt”l mentioned this to the Zvhiller Rebbe zt”l, he was concerned. “If only you had come during Kiddush, it would have been much easier to do something. The Kiddish of Friday night is so powerful that one can really make a difference through it. On Shabbos 119, we find that one who recites Kiddush over wine on Friday night is a partner in creation. This gives one who has understanding great power. After all, the halacha is that if a partner does something of his own volition, it works bedieved…”
Rav Menachem Nochum of Shtefenesht zt”l once made an error while reciting Kiddush Friday night. Although he corrected himself, his followers, knowing the greatness of their Rebbe, immediately figured that he had done so on purpose for some reason.
When the Rebbe heard about this assumption, he immediately rejected it. “On Shabbos 119, we find that one who recites Kiddush is a partner with Hashem in creation. What kind of foolishness is this? How can one think that a person who truly appreciates what is involved in such an intense experience can’t make an error due to the vastness of his position? If one really considers what he is doing during Kiddush, he will be filled with awe and is certainly prone to err!” (Yagdil Torah, part I, p. 26;Marbeh Chaim, Part I, p. 154).
SHABBOS 120: TWO CONTRACTORS
It was the beginning of winter in 5748. There was a fair sky on Friday when the two contractors finished work. Each worked on constructing a new building in adjacent lots. Although both were done working for the week, only one was shomer Shabbos.
To their surprise, on Shabbos, it began to rain. Since they lived close to the buildings, the unobservant contractor raced to the home of his observant colleague. “You must move your cement into the building or it will be ruined by the rain!” he said.
The observant contractor answered vehemently, “I keep the halachos of Shabbos no matter what! Since I am forbidden to move my building materials on Shabbos, I honestly don’t care if it all gets ruined.”
The unobservant contractor sent his son to move their cement, but after Shabbos they had a bit of a surprise. He accidentally mixed the two up and moved the observant man’s cement instead. The son was so shocked at the improbability of mixing up such a straightforward thing – he worked in the building every day – that he immediately decided to become a shomer Shabbos.
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein was asked whether it was permitted for the shomer Shabbos builder to use the cement after Shabbos. After all, the son had done an aveirah when he moved it.
“It is permitted for the shomer Shabbos to use his cement,” said Rav Zilberstein. “Although if one does melachah for another it becomes forbidden to him forever, that is only regarding something which the sinner owns. But one who does melachah with another’s property against his will or accidentally cannot forbid it forever.
“In this case, there are two other reasons to be lenient. Firstly, no melachah de’oraisa was performed on the cement itself. The son only moved the millet – which is muktzah – from one domain to another. Also, in this case, the chillul Shabbos was done intentionally. In Shulchan Aruch, we find that if one does melachah on purpose, the result is not forbidden forever” (Chashukei Chemed, Shabbos, p. 598-602; Shulchan Aruch, siman 318, se’if 1).