SHABBOS 2: TWENTY-FOUR ADORNMENTS
Rav Yehudah Tzadkah zt”l recounted his interaction with the Imrei Emes zt”l during his visit to Yerushalayim in ×ª×¨×¤”×.
“When the Rebbe came to Yerushalayim, I was nine years old. I joined the throng that came to meet this illustrious personage, who had over one hundred thousand chassidim in Europe before the Holocaust. I pushed and squeezed until I got in close proximity with the Rebbe. He immediately noticed me and asked, ‘What are you learning?’
“‘We are learning Mishnayos Shabbos,’ I replied.
“‘Why does this masechta have specifically twenty-four perakim?’ asked the Rebbe.
“I replied that I would ask one of the gedolei Yerushalayim and get back to him.
“I rushed to Shoshanim L’Dovid,the famous bais medrash where the Kaf Hachayim zt”l learned. When I asked him the Rebbe’s question, he immediately stopped what he was doing and pulled out a Mishnayos Shabbos. Opening to one of the commentaries, he showed me two reasons why Maseches Shabbos has twenty-four chapters. Firstly, because Shabbos is called a bride and in Yeshayah we find that a bride has twenty-four adornments. Secondly, one who keeps Shabbos is considered to have kept the entire Torah. Since the Written Torah has twenty-four books, this masechta has twenty-four chapters.
“I hurried back to the Rebbe and told him both answers. The Rebbe was thrilled and immediately gave me a coin worth five grush, a fine gift for a child in those days.”
The Rebbe of Nikolsburg zt”l gave another reason. “Why does Shabbos have twenty-four chapters? This hints that one should complete a chapter of this tractate for every hour of each Shabbos. In this manner, he finishes the masechta every Shabbos, as the Arizal recommends” (Tuvcha Yabiu, Part I, p. 261 & 321).
SHABBOS 3: A PREOCCUPIED HEART
The following is a letter that Rav Yeruchum Levovitz zt”l wrote to a beloved student: “Several months have transpired since we last exchanged letters, despite my strong desire that we should write more frequently. Nevertheless, there are many distractions here that preoccupy my heart. The truth is that even spiritual matters, even the ma’amorim that I delve into both in lectures to the rabim and to individuals, take all the attention of my heart. I cannot seem to turn my attention to other things, even of great import.
“If one thinks about it, this in itself is a big lesson in avodah. We can understand how important it is for one to guard his heart. If being preoccupied in spiritual matters interferes with one’s ability to focus on other concerns, since one is constantly focused on various inyonei machshavah and chochmah until one cannot focus his heart on other things, how much more so does being preoccupied with material matters interfere with spiritual pursuits!
“This is actually the lesson of a famous statement on Shabbos 3. There we find that it is forbidden for one to ask his mentor a question regarding a different masechta than the one they are learning. The reason for this is because the teacher has trouble focusing his heart on another matter. We see that if one is preoccupied with various negative middos, like anger, jealousy or the like, or he is hyper-focused on making money or other physical matters, he has no space for anything else. What hope can man have and how can he grow spiritually if his heart is not taken up by spiritual matters?” (Daas Chochmah Umussar, Part III, p. 123-124).
SHABBOS 4: QUICK DECISIONS
Baalei teshuvah are often faced with halachic dilemmas that must be acted upon immediately. One in such a situation needs abundant siyata diShmaya to know just how to do the ratzon Hashem without embarrassing anyone or erring.
One baal teshuvah accepted the yoke of Heaven with his entire heart. His wife initially did not, however. For a long time, she balked, only very slowly integrating Torah into her life. One Shabbos, his son contracted a fever that worried his wife to no end. She wanted to take a cab to the hospital despite the obvious fact that the child was not dangerously ill and could certainly wait the few hours until nightfall. As she got more frantic, the husband realized that nothing he could say would dissuade her from bringing the child to the hospital. His only option was to offer to do this himself and take the child out of the house for the few hours until Shabbos ended. But he knew that his wife would only believe him if he took his wallet with money for the cab with him. Of course, this is forbidden, since it is muktzah. However, to prevent his wife from chillul Shabbos, he did it. He took his wallet and headed for a religious neighbor’s house until Shabbos ended and then went to the hospital.
When a friend heard about what he had done, he was horrified and he gently rebuked the distraught man. “Who told you that it was correct for you to sin to prevent your wife from sinning more severely? In Shabbos 4 we find that one should not sin – even a small sin – to save another from a serious sin. This is especially clear from the Biur Halacha who brings that one who transgresses muktzah is considered a mumar” (385, D.H. Afilu).
When this question was presented to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, he ruled that the husband acted exactly right. “Although the friend is correct regarding his quote of the Biur Halacha, the husband is certainly not a mumar, since some permit one to carry muktzah even to avoid a serious monetary loss (Shulchan Aruch, 334, se’if 2). How much more so can one be lenient in this situation! Better for him to carry muktzah than for her to violate Shabbos where there is no danger to the child” (Chashukei Chemed, Shabbos, p. 45-46).
SHABBOS 5: WHO SUPPORTS WHOM?
The posuk famously states, “Eitz chaim hee lamachazikim boh.” The Chofetz Chaim zt”l points out that the rules of grammar indicate that “lamachazikim osah” is a more correct expression than “lamachazikim boh.” The former implies that the man is supporting the Torah. The latter, which is our text, implies that the Torah is what provides support.
The Chofetz Chaim explains that this is no error: “We can understand this in light of the words of Chazal in Medrash Rus that when one gives to the poor, the baal habayis gets from the poor man more than he gives. Similarly, in the end, one who supports the Torah is really supported by it. He attains more benefit, gedulah and support than he gave. This is especially true regarding those who never learned themselves, because they were preoccupied with making a living and didn’t have the time or ability to learn. By supporting Torah, it is as if they learned themselves.”
After quoting this Chofetz Chaim, Rav Shlomo Zalman Friedman zt”l added, “I once explained a statement on Shabbos 5 in light of the above. There we find that one’s hand is likened to a place of four amos. Firstly, we must mention the Gemara in Brachos 8 which states that since the Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed, Hashem only has the four amos of halacha. When one who works and doesn’t have the ability to learn much sees this and other similar statements, he likely trembles with fear. He wonders to himself, ‘How can I merit to a portion in the nachalas Hashem, who only has in the world the four amos of halacha?’
“This is what is alluded to in Shabbos 5. The hand of a person – that is, if he opens his hand and spreads his largesse to support Torah scholars – is likened to daled amos, and is considered in Hashem’s eyes like one who himself learned halacha. In this manner, anyone can merit a portion of the nachalas Hashem” (Kerem Shlomo, p. 23).
SHABBOS 6: SKIPPING FROM SIMCHA
Rav Leibeleh Eiger zt”l, the famous grandson of Rav Akiva Eiger zt”l, was known as a prodigy from a young age. He enjoyed a very close relationship with his grandfather, who saw him as destined for spiritual greatness. Whenever they were together, the two learned privately. Rav Leibele noticed every movement and every avodah of his grandfather and internalized them. Indeed, much of Rav Leibele’s spiritual makeup was developed through his close relationship with his grandfather.
Once, when they were learning together and Rav Akiva Eiger shared a question that was on his mind.
“On Shabbos 6 we find that according to Ben Azai, one who brings something in or out of a public domain is not chayov, since when one walks while carrying, it is akin to resting. It is as if he paused between each step, which is not considered carrying. In light of this, it seems difficult that Chazal decreed that one should not blow shofar or shake a lulav on their respective Yomim Tovim since he may come to carry these items four amos in a public domain. According to Ben Azai, merely walking with them is not sufficient to make one liable. He would need to skip with them, as we find in the Yerushalmi. It seems to be a stretch to me that Chazal made a decree for something so farfetched as skipping four amos in the public domain!”
Rav Lebeile’s compelling response was offered immediately: “Quite the contrary: One who is on his way to do a mitzvah will be so excited that skipping is not farfetched at all. How can a Jew merely walk to do a mitzvah? Surely he will skip and jump with zerizus!” (Yehudah Lekadsho, Part I, p. 29).
SHABBOS 7: THE FOUR DOMAINS
Thisdaf discusses the halachos of various domains where one may or may not carry on Shabbos.
The Bnei Yissoschor zt”l finds an inspiring remez in the acronym made up by the four types of domains.
“The four domains are yochid, which begins with a Yud; karmelis, which starts with a Kof; petur, which begins with a Pey; and rabim, which starts with a Reish. These four letters together form the word yechaper, he will atone. This teaches that all the sins of one who keeps the halachos of Shabbos are forgiven, even one who worshiped idols like they did during the generation of Enosh, as we find in Shabbos 118 based on the verse. Being careful not to carry when this is forbidden atones for the worst sins, as this remez indicates” (Bnei Yissoschor, Ma’amarei Shabbosos, Ma’amar 7, note #6).
SHABBOS 8: THE PRIVATE SPACE OF SHABBOS
It is certainly curious that Maseches Shabbos begins specifically with the melacha of moving something from one domain to another. Why should the first Mishnah and the first several blatt be dedicated specifically to this subject?
The Sheim MiShmuel zt”l explains the significance of this. “The Tikkunei Zohar asks why one who does melacha on Shabbos is chayov misah? The answer given is that on Shabbos the entire spiritual essence of the world is uplifted so that evil will have no true hold on the awesome holiness of Shabbos. One who does melacha lowers everything and gives a certain mastery to the side of evil by giving it access to the holy place that we have been uplifted to on Shabbos. This is the meaning of the verse, ‘Mechaleleha mos yumas.’ Those who profane the Shabbos, by giving evil free access to its sublime holiness, will surely die.
“Since the main reason why melacha is prohibited is to protect the reshus hayochid, the side of holiness, from being encroached upon by reshus harabim, the first dafim of Shabbos discuss this melacha” (Sheim MiShmuel, Shavuos, p. 76)
SHABBOS 9: STANDING AT SINAI
We do not understand the greatness of learning with our children. Even a grandfather’s learning with his grandsons is vastly more important than most fathom.
The Yerushalmi recounts an astounding story of Rav Yehoshua ben Levi’s self-sacrifice to learn with his grandson. Every Erev Shabbos, Rav Yehoshua ben Levi would hear a parsha from his grandson. One week, he forgot and entered one of the bathhouses of Teveria. The moment he recalled that he had forgotten to hear a parsha from his grandson, he immediately dressed and rushed out of the bathhouse to go learn with the child.
Rav Chiya bar Abba asked, “But did we not learn in Maseches Shabbos that one who began in the bathhouse need not leave even when it was forbidden for him to enter before fulfilling a time-bound mitzvah, such as praying Minchah?”
Rav Yehoshua ben Levi’s reply was filled with a rebbi’s love for his student. “Chiya, my son, is it light in your eyes that anyone who hears a parsha from his grandson is as if he heard it from Sinai? How do we know this? Because the verse states, ‘And you shall make known to your children and your children’s children, the day you stood before Hashem, your G-d, at Chorev’” (Yerushalmi,Shabbos 6b, on the Mishnah found there in Shas Bavli on daf 9a).
SHABBOS 10: PARTNERS IN CREATION
When Rav Shmuel Halperin zt”l attended a rabbinic gathering in the home of Rav Yisroel of Chortkov zt”l on the night before the first Knessiah Gedolahof Agudas Yisroelin Vienna, he recounted how the rebbe rebuked dayanim who were present whom he felt were not as careful in their calling as they should be.
“The weather was sweltering. So much so, that we discussed how it would be possible to convene such a large gathering of Yidden in one hall without having people faint or worse, chas veshalom.
“The rebbe surprisingly said that the hot weather was the fault of the poskim. ‘It is rarely so hot here. This kind of heat is virtually unknown. We must therefore conclude that it is you visiting rabbonim who are responsible.’
“When he perceived that we were astounded by this, he explained: ‘In Shabbos 10, we find that any dayan who renders Torah-true judgment is considered a partner in the creation of heaven and earth. In Eruvin 3, we find that a pot cooked by two partners is not too hot nor too cold. This means that if dayanim judge correctly, the weather is not inordinately cold or hot. But nowadays, sadly, dayanim often do not judge as is proper. This explains why the weather is so hard to deal with’” (Kovetz Tiferes Yisroel, Tishrei 5760, p. 45).
When Rav Chaim of Antina zt”l heard a similar vort – that rabbonim and dayanim should daven if the weather is difficult – he added that admorim are equally responsible for this. “In Shabbos 119, we also find that anyone who says Vayechulu on Shabbos night is a partner with Hashem in creation of heaven and earth. One may say that only a person who does this with proper kavanah merits this distinction. In that case, admorim, who should at least intone this as is fitting to become a shutif, must also daven if the weather is bad” (Chodesh Bechodsho, Cheshvan 5756, p. 3).
SHABBOS 11: NEGLECTED DETAILS
Sadly, people are often rushed before Shabbos, often realizing only after the start of Shabbos that their preparations were not quite as complete as they thought.
One man had rushed to shul and, while finally relaxing there, noticed something strange that appeared to be attached to his shirt. After a moment’s perusal, he realized what it was. He had sewn a button on his shirt before Shabbos, but he had been so pressured with other responsibilities that he had forgotten to detach the thread, on which hung a needle.
Since he lived in London in an area that had no eruv, this man wondered whether he could walk home.
When this question was presented to Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, he explained that this was not a simple matter.
“If a non-Jew is available to break the thread and needle away from his shirt, that is the best option. Although it is forbidden generally to ask a non-Jew to do anything prohibited to a Jew, this case is different. Firstly, to remove the thread and needle from the shirt is merely a rabbinic violation, since tearing is a Torah prohibition only if done for the express purpose of sewing up the tear. One may tell a non-Jew to do a rabbinic prohibition for a mitzvah or for a pressing need. Since this man must go home to make Kiddush and eat the Shabbos meal, he can tell a non-Jew to remove the needle and thread.
“But if it is impossible to get a non-Jew, it appears that he can even walk home in this shirt, assuming he hasn’t got a coat or the like which will make it unrecognizable to others whether he has a shirt on or not. This seems clear from the Mishnah Berurah regarding the Gemara in Shabbos 11. There we find that a tailor may not go out with a needle in his clothes as a declaration to all of his profession. The Shulchan Aruch states there that one who does so is not obligated for violating Shabbos de’oraisa. The Mishnah Berurah explains that this is not the normal way most people carry a needle. In addition, going out with a needle is not a melacha hatzrichah legufah, since he does not need the needle, only the shirt.
“It is preferable if he also makes a neder not to have any pleasure from the needle. In this manner, he will merely be doing a melachah that does not interest him, which some authorities permit. For such a pressing need, it appears that this is permitted” (Chashukei Chemed, Shabbos, p. 88-89).
SHABBOS 12: A GREAT HALACHAH OF SHABBOS
One of the students of the Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l was once at the tish Friday night when he felt something in his pocket. Wondering what it could be, he placed his hand in the pocket of his Shabbos suit and pulled out an oblong object, which he noticed, to his chagrin, was a pen. He rushed to the Rebbe, pen still in hand, but hidden under his jacket, and whispered to him what had happened. “Since you are holding it, you can put it in the next room,” the Rebbe whispered back.
As the young man returned – no one but he and the Rebbe knew where he had been – the Rebbe explained the importance of checking one’s garments before Shabbos.
“How can one find muktzah in his garments on Shabbos? Don’t we all know that one is obligated to check his clothing before Shabbos?
“We find in Shabbos 12 that Rav Yosef comments on the halachah that one must check his pockets before Shabbos that this is a hilchesah rabbosi leShabbosa, an important halachah of Shabbos. We may wonder what is so important about this. The answer is that, as Rav Yonasan Eibshitz points out, it is very difficult for one to guard himself from violating Shabbos. One requires heavenly assistance for this. If he checks his pockets before Shabbos, he demonstrates that he wants desperately to avoid chillul Shabbos. In this manner, he is in the category of one who desires to purify himself, and he is therefore assisted for the entire Shabbos. This is why checking one’s pockets before Shabbos is an important halacha for Shabbos. One who does so will be protected the entire day”(Lapid Eish, p. 687).
SHABBOS 13: A WORRISOME SITUATION
Dealing with people suffering from mental illness or dementia is a very complex and sad reality that many, most often those who care for the elderly, must face.
One elderly man in Eretz Yisroel who was not in his right mind rushed out of his home on leil Shabbos. His distressed relatives wondered whether they should call the police. They were afraid that he might be in danger, and quickly did so, as other family members rushed to look for him. When they found him about five minutes away and brought him home, they noticed that the police – presumably Jews – had not yet arrived.
They decided to call the police and alert them that their relative had been found to ensure that there would not be any more chillul Shabbos on his behalf.
After Shabbos, they asked Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein if they had acted properly.
“Well,” he responded, “you were correct to call initially, since this is no different than any other case of pikuach nefesh. But when you called to inform the police that he was found, you erred. This halacha I heard from my father-in-law, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l. He explained that a second call is unwarranted, since the police are acting in a permitted manner – they are responding to what was dangerous for a Jew. Calling them back is forbidden since one may only violate Shabbos in a situation of pikuach nefesh, not to avoid another’s permitted chillul Shabbos” (Chashukei Chemed, Shabbos, p. 108).
SHABBOS 14: MEASURE FOR MEASURE
On thisdaf, we find that one who holds a Sefer Torah while arum — literally, while in state of undress – will be buried without clothes. This is how the Radvaz explains it, just like we find in many places that one who gives terumah arum refers to one who tithed without clothes. Many people who felt wise in their own eyes asked how this is to be understood. After all, who would hold a Sefer Torah without clothes? And who is buried unclothed?
When this question was presented to the Erchei Yehoshua, he explained that although the Radvaz is correct, despite his detractors, this statement is not to be understood literally.
“This statement,” he said, “refers to one who removes the clothes from the Torah, who claims that all of Torah is clear from what we see in front of us. Like we find in the Zohar, ‘Woe to one who thinks any part of the Torah is mere stories without deeper ways of understanding it.’
“As far as being buried unclothed, this, too, refers to something else. Everyone has his negative character traits and faults that must be worked on. Most people’s negative traits are unknown to the general public and remain so until the grave. But one who claims the Torah is merely what we see – denying that it clothes a deeper level – is punished measure for measure. Just like he declared that the Torah is revealed to all, since it hides no deeper meaning, his sins will be revealed to all. This is the meaning of one who is buried unclothed, Rachmana litzlon” (Erchei Yehoshua, p. 154).
SHABBOS 15: CLEARING THE AIR
The Baal Shem Tov famously taught that one’s thoughts determine where he is. Rav Pinchaos of Koritz used this concept to explain a halachah on this daf.
“On Shabbos 15, we find that land of the nations – besides Eretz Yisroel, that is – imparts impurity. On the surface, this seems strange. What spiritual justification could there be to defile all of these countries?
“The answer is that, sadly, many of these people are perpetually filled with negative and ugly thoughts, sometimes grossly material, at other times of illicit desires. These thoughts remain in the airspace of their countries, defiling them. The way one ensures that he is not defiled by these thoughts is by filling himself with revulsion for such thoughts. In this manner, he will be protected” (She’eiris Pinchos, p. 97).