Shabbos 16: The Rebuilt Vessel
It is a custom to break a glass vessel under a chupah. The Arugas Habosem explains why:
“We specifically break a glass vessel under the chupah to allude to an important element in marriage. We find in Shabbos 16 that any impure vessel that was broken loses its defilement if broken. But if it is fixed, its impurity is also restored. A glass vessel is an exception to this rule. If it is broken and then rebuilt after being melted down, it is considered new and remains pure. We find that a chosson becomes complete on his wedding day. All of his sins are forgiven, as Rashi famously records. By breaking a glass vessel, we hint to him that he should be like this substance. Just as glass does not return to its original impurity, he also should avoid falling back into negative patterns and behaviors” (Arugas Habosem, Parshas Shemini).
Shabbos 17: “I Win Because I Am Always Defeated”
The Rambam writes a fascinating letter regarding the importance of self-restraint.
“Do not engage in machlokes which makes one’s nefesh disgusting,” he says. “Machlokes destroys bodily health, peace of mind, and money. What is left? I have seen pure ones blackened, families plagued and communities disbanded, pious ones lost, the faithful destroyed, the honorable undeservedly shamed – all from machlokes. Prophets have prophesied, the wise offered insight and philosophers probed, but they still have not plumbed the awful horrors of machlokes.
“Therefore, despise machlokes and flee it. Distance yourself from all its lovers and friends. Be proud of restraint. Know the greatness of forbearance, which is genuine gevurah and victory. In this manner, you will be sanctified even in the eyes of your enemies, who will appreciate your greatness of spirit. And even if your foes are lowly, they will be pained that you do not act in a lowly manner like them.”
Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter quoted this letter and added, “Look into this letter for even more wondrous words about the greatness of humility and bearing insult with dignity in a fitting manner.
“We find in Shabbos 17 that during the machlokes between Bais Hillel and Bais Shamai whether one must harvest grapes in purity, Shamaidefeated Hillel. It says there that they drove a sword into the bais midrash and declared: ‘He who would enter should enter and he who would leave must not do so.’ On that day, Hillel sat before Shamai like one of the students. That day was as difficult for Yisroel as the day the Eigel was fashioned. Rashi explains that the day was difficult because Hillel was the nosi and had profound humility. The question which begs to be asked here is: What does Hillel’s humility have to do with anything? Why didn’t Rashi feel that writing that Hillel was the nosi was enough of a reason for Yisroel to be upset?
“The answer lies in this letter of the Rambam. It was specifically because Hillel had profound humility that his debasement before Shamai was so difficult for Yisroel. If he had not had such humility, no one would have cared as much. It was only as hard as the day the Eigel was fashioned because Hillel was humble.
“We see that the entire power of Hillel – and that everyone honored him so much – was due to his humility. This is like an adage of the wise: ‘I win because I am always defeated’”(Igeres HaRambam, letter to his son Rav Avrohom,Leket Amarim, Part I, p. 64)
Shabbos 18: A Favorable Outcome?
It is very difficult to be prepared for the truly unexpected. One host had many guests for Shabbos enjoying a delightful spring meal in his spacious garden, when one guest fainted. The baal habayis quickly rushed to the garden hose and turned it on, and in the back of his mind entertained the thought that the water would also help his parched garden which he had been remiss in watering.
In retrospect, he wondered whether he had violated an issur – perhaps even a melachah de’oraisa – by turning on the water. After all, we find on this daf that although one may leave water running in a garden from before Shabbos, watering one’s garden on Shabbos clearly violates a Torah prohibition.
When this question was presented to Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, he ruled with characteristic clarity: “He was certainly obligated to turn on the water despite his thoughts to gain from the melachah, and he surely has no chiyuv on this account. This is clear from the Gemara in Menachos 64. There we find that one who went to catch fish on Shabbos and happened to also save a drowning child has not done a melachah according to Rabbah, despite his lack of knowledge that a child was drowning. His reasoning is that, in this instance, one’s action, not his thoughts, determines what he did. Although Rava argues there, the Rambam rules like Rabbah. That is the halacha.
“As far as whether the person’s thought violated a prohibition at all, this is a machlokes. In Yoma 86, we find that one is obligated to quickly save a drowning child even if the net used to save the child will also catch fish that he needs. The Ran comments there: ‘Regarding pikuach nefesh, one is obligated to do whatever melachah is necessary to save the man’s life. Therefore, even if he intends to also gain from the melachah, since he is merely doing what the Torah demands of him, this is permitted.’
“The Shaar Hatziyun (328:17) brings that although the Rokeach and the Smag agree with the Ran, the Rif and the Rosh apparently argue. This is also implied by the Rambam and Rabbeinu Yeruchum. The Me’iri in Yoma writes explicitly that one must not have kavanah to catch the fish. So, whether he did an issur is a machlokes Rishonim” (Chashukei Chemed, Shabbos, p. 126-127).
Shabbos 19: The Light of Shabbos
Thisdaf discusses various activities forbidden on or before Shabbos.
One of the most painful situations a person endures is when the light of Torah shines so brightly for one member of the family, but those nearest to him fail to perceive it. One parent actually purchased a car for his newly shomer Shabbos son on condition that he drive it on Shabbos. How could the young man resist such pressure?
One teenage girl used to keep store for her parents at intervals. When her father heard that she had become a shomeres Shabbos, he immediately informed her that from that Shabbos, she would be required to work in their store.
Although she begged them to let her off, she found that her parents were adamant and her choice was either to be thrown out of their home or mind the store on Shabbos. Although it pained her, she opened the store, setting the lights on a timer and secreting a key nearby before Shabbos.
When a non-Jew came into the store and asked for an expensive item, the girl asked an outrageous price – fully three times its worth – so that the man would not buy it. When another customer came into the store, she did the same.
A few days later, the first customer came in and paid her flabbergasted father three times the price of a certain item. He explained that he had searched everywhere for it but had only found that one, and since he was wealthy, he could well afford the quoted price.
Her father saw that keeping Shabbos “pays off” and allowed his daughter to keep Shabbos from then on (Chashukei Chemed, p. 135).
Shabbos 20: The Burning Lamp
This daf discusses which oils one may or may not light with for neiros Shabbos.
It takes a truly great person to know when halachos in the Gemara apply to modern day situations. In Shulchan Aruch 275, we find that even if one lights with oil, which is permitted, it is generally forbidden to read near the light for fear that one will tilt the lamp to get better light. What about an electric lamp that has a dimmer? If the lamp can be turned higher, is it also forbidden to read in a room where this is the only light?
When this question was presented to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, he ruled decisively: “It is certainly permitted to read next to a light with different settings of brightness. Although we find that a lamp with certain types of oil is forbidden, that is only because the lamp doesn’t burn well and one will naturally adjust it. Regarding a lamp with oil that burns well, we do not find a decree that one may add oil. Similarly, one need not worry about the possibility that he will make the light stronger” (Shulchan Shlomo, Part I,275:1).
Shabbos 21: The Light of Truth
The Toras Nosson gives a powerful lesson of chizuk for Chanukah – and all year round.
“On Shabbos 22, we find that the Greeks defiled all of the oil found in the Heichal. But when the Chashmonaim defeated them, they found one flask fit to illuminate the menorah. In spiritual terms, the klippah of Yavan alludes to the forces of darkness that occludes the emes. What should one who is in such darkness do?
“Chazal tell us that Hashem’s signet is emes. The verse states that Hashem is close to all who call to Him in truth. This means that if one will only speak words of truth from his heart – whatever level he may be on – the darkness will be illuminated and he will see the way into the light of closeness with Hashem.
“The light of Chanukah reveals the deep truth that Hashem is always available to anyone who wishes to find Him and calls in truth. No matter how strong the darkness, one must search for the protected flask, the part of him that can still ignite into an illuminating fire. This element remains unsullied no matter what he may have done. He must reach it and cry out to Hashem with whatever strength he can muster. In this manner, he merits the miraculous illumination of the flask of oil found on Chanukah and sees the way out of his darkness and despair” (Toras Nosson, Shabbos, daf 21).
Shabbos 22: Illuminating the Doorway
The Bobover Rebbe zt”l stated, “On Shabbos 22, we find that when people used to light the Chanukah menorah outside, the custom was to light it within a tefach of the doorway. The Rama writes that, nowadays, when people outside of Eretz Yisroel light inside, there is not such a clear halachic reason to light near the doorway. But he concludes that the custom is to light near the doorway in any case.
“The Bnei Yissoschor brings three gedolim who explain why it is preferable to light near the doorway, even though this does not increase pirsumei nisa in places where we light inside. The Rokeach, the Maharal and Rav Pinchos of Koritz all explain the spiritual reason why we light inside in the same manner. They explain that the ner Chanukah – which alludes to the ohr hagonuz, thesupernal light hidden in the Torah, is an antidote to the yeitzer hara. Regarding the yeitzer hara,the verse tells us that it ‘crouches by the door’ – the door of your heart. The Medrash explains that, initially, the yeitzer pushes one to do something small. He then drags the person from one sin to the next. Since the light of the Torah combats this by being on one’s heart, we place the Chanukah lights near the doorway. By putting Torah on our hearts, we will rule over the yeitzer hara” (Pri Hakerem, Vayeishev, 5760, p. 3).