SHABBOS 30: THE TORAH’S PROTECTION
The Ponovezher Rov zt”l was known for his boundless love for Torah. Rav Gad Eisemann zt”l recounted that he once told Rav Kahaneman a teaching heard from the Chofetz Chaim which the gadol had never heard.
“The Chofetz Chaim taught that one who learns at every available moment is considered to have learned the entire day. Even while he eats and while he sleeps, it is as if he is delving into the Torah’s wisdom.
“He proved this from the Gemara in Shabbos 30. There we find that when Dovid Hamelech heard that he was slated to die on Shabbos, he began to learn with special intensity every Shabbos as a defense against the Angel of Death. When it came time for Dovid to leave this world, the Angel of Death was powerless because of Dovid’s learning. Eventually, he made a distracting noise so that Dovid would stop learning and become momentarily vulnerable. The question here is: How could Dovid’s learning protect him absolutely for the entire Shabbos? After all, it is impossible to say lo posik pumei, that his mouth did not stop saying words of Torah, while he was eating and sleeping. Why not take him then?
“We see that Dovid was protected while eating and sleeping even though he was not learning then. It was only when Dovid stopped learning for an instant that the opportunity was available and he lost his protection.”
When the Ponovezher Rov heard this, he was so inspired that he literally kissed Rav Eisemann (Meor Einei Yisroel, Part IV, p. 136).
SHABBOS 31: FIXING THE TIME
Rav Nosson Wachtfogel zt”l taught an important lesson about a statement on today’s daf.
“In Shabbos 31, we find that one of the first questions one is asked is: ‘Kovata ittim laTorah? – Did you set aside fixed times for Torah study?’ They don’t ask a person whether he learned an abundance of Torah – did he shteig or become a lamdan? The first inquiry regarding Torah is whether he was kovua, fixed, in his time for learning. This refers to whether he made the Torah important in his life. One who makes an appointment with a king will surely never be late. Even five minutes late will be unacceptable to him due to the importance of the king. During one’s judgment, they ask him whether Torah was important to him. This is determined by how regular he was in his learning.”
The Noam Eliezer of Skulen zt”l offered a different explanation of this strange expression. “It is well known that the heretics of every generation fall away because they claim that the Torah is not compatible with modern times. This is the question our sages tell us each of us will be asked: Kovata ittim laTorah? Did you realize that the Torah is still relevant and that every halacha is still applicable at all ittim, to all times and periods in every generation?” (Leket Reshimos, Purim, p. 142; Nitzozei Ohr, Shemos 5764, p. 4).
SHABBOS 32: ONE IN A THOUSAND
The Toras Nosson zt”l explains the vast power to uplift someone who is down by focusing on his positive qualities.
“In Shabbos 32, we find that a person who is ill enough to become bedridden should feel as though he is being judged in a harsh court where most defendants are executed. Just like a defendant needs an excellent advocate to survive such a court, an ill person who is bedridden needs powerful advocates: teshuvah and maasim tovim. The Maharshaexplains that every mitzvah we do generates a heavenly advocate who defends us when we are in need. The inverse is also true, however; every sin generates an accusing angel. The Gemara goes on to say that even if one has 999 accusing angels and one defending angel, he will be saved. And even if the mitzvah that he did was so imperfect that the single defending angel is also only a “one in a thousand advocate” in the sense that it has 999 negative things to say counterbalancing the one positive word, he will also be saved.
“This teaches the astounding power of focusing on even the slightest bit of good. The moment the advocating angel attracts attention to this miniscule mitzvah, the accused is saved. Even if the merit itself is full of negative thoughts and very imperfect, it can save him if he will focus on it. This is true both of oneself and others. If one perceives a fellow Jew – or even himself – as being in a spiritual slump, he should not focus on the negative. Although he must acknowledge the negative, he should focus on some positive. In this manner, the sinner will be elevated and the influence of the sins will fall away” (Toras Nosson, Shabbos 32).
SHABBOS 33: SALTY TEARS
There was a certain chassidic rebbe who spent an hour every day in his garden saying Tehillim in a very moving manner. He would cry bitter tears as he supplicated Hashem to have mercy on His Yiddishe kinderlach, His very own children.
To the shock of the chassidim of the town, the misnagdim in the town said that the rebbe’s regular practice to do so was forbidden on Shabbos. “After all, this man, for all his tzidkus, is crying copious tears in a garden where things grow. Obviously, this is a violation of zoreia, of the planting and care of growing things, which is clearly forbidden on Shabbos.”
The chassidim basically ignored them, figuring that such a tzaddik had halachic sources to provide support for his practice. Besides, if the misnagdim were so concerned, they figured that the detractors could ask the rebbe themselves if they really wanted to.
But one neutral party wondered, with all due respect to the rebbe, why this should be permitted. When this man was exiled to Siberia, he met the Tchebiner Rovzt”l, who had also been exiled.
He asked, “Were the misnagdim right in their assessment of the situation, or was it really permitted for the rebbe to cry over his Tehillim in the garden on Shabbos?”
The Tchebiner Rov answered, “He was certainly permitted to cry in the garden. The reason is that tears are salty. This obvious fact is discussed on Shabbos 33, where we find that tears hurt a wound because of the salt in them. In Ta’anis 40, the Gemara tells us that the Atlantic Ocean is salty and, therefore, its waters do not cause grain to grow. Tears are therefore another one of the types of liquid that do not cause growth, and the Shulchan Aruch explicitly permits their dispersal in an area where things grow” (Shulchan Aruch,336:3; Yeshurun, Part 14, p. 182).
SHABBOS 34: “LIGHT THE CANDLE!”
The Chidahoffers an inspiring explanation of a famous Mishnah in Bameh Madlikin: “In Shabbos 34, we find that on Erev Shabbos, before dark, one should gently say to his household, ‘Isartem – have you taken maaser? Eiravtem – have you made an eiruv? Light the candles.’
“We can learn an important lesson from this. It is clear from Shabbos 152 that one’s bayis alludes to his body, which houses his neshamah, and Erev Shabbos symbolizes this world, since it precedes the next world, to which Shabbos is compared. The Mishnah is saying: ‘Isartem’ – you have merited osher or materialwealth in your youth; ‘eiravtem’ – you have enjoyed what is areiv, or the pleasures of this world in middle age. Now that it is already late on Erev Shabbos, even if one is already older, do what you can for your neshamah. Hadliku es haner – ignite the ‘ner Hashem nishmas adam,’ by doing whatever you can to nurture your soul” (Pnei Dovid).
SHABBOS 35: THE SIGNAL OF SHABBOS
Many people are looking for ways to be mechanech their children in these uncertain times. As the Chazon Ish would say, “In our times, the street is a ruach she’einah metzuyah, an unusually powerful wind, pushing people away from Torah and mitzvos. Even though people say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, that’s only when the wind is not driving at it. Nowadays, it is often not the parent who is at fault when a child falls away.”
How can one merit a child who will serve as a beacon for Klal Yisrael? The Mishnah Berurah tells us how. We find on Shabbos 35 that it used to be the custom to sound a shofar to signal when one must stop doing melachah on Erev Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch states this as actual halacha. The Rama comments that the custom is for a messenger of the community to announce that people should prepare themselves for Shabbos. The Mishnah Berurah adds: “In big communities. where it is impossible to announce this, it is very proper for people to volunteer to go around and encourage stores to close and remind people to light candles on time. Several large communities have chaburos made up of people who provide hashgachah to ensure that businesses are keeping Shabbos. Ashrei chelkam, since they are mezakeh Yidden to our Father in heaven. Those who always strengthen themselves in this mitzvah will merit to have children who are gedolei Yisroel.”
The Shaar Hatziyun comments, “We learn this from the statement of our sages that one who is careful in the mitzvah to light candles for Shabbos merits this distinction of raising learned children. How much more so regarding one who is always mezakeh the rabim. We find this in the Medrash regarding Elkana. Each year, when he would ascend to the Bais Hamikdosh,he would encourage others to also ascend. Regarding this, Hashem said to him, ‘Since Your kavanah was to bring merit to the Jewish people, I will cause you to have a son who will be mezakeh the Jewish people before Me.’ In the merit of this, Elkanah was worthy of having Shmuel Hanovi” (Mishnah Berurah, siman 256, se’if koton 2; Shaar Hatziyun, 6).
SHABBOS 36: THE FUNCTION OF THE HOT PLATE
It is fairly common for many families to use a hot plate on Shabbos. Even so, we do find on Shabbos 36 that, in general, one may not leave food on an oven from before Shabbos unless it is covered. What, then, is the status of a hot plate? Is one permitted to leave food on a hot plate without covering it or is it considered like an oven?
When this question was presented to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbachzt”l, he ruled that it is permitted.
“One may leave food on an uncovered hot plate that is set aside for Shabbos. Its purpose is to maintain the heat of the Shabbos food and it is never used for cooking during the week. Since these hot plates do not have an adjustable setting, it is clear that this is permitted. If one placed the food on the hot plate before Shabbos, it is permitted to leave the food on it or return food to it in accordance with the halachos of chazarah of food to a covered fire. Another reason this is permitted is because the very fact that he is using such an unusual device only on Shabbos may in and of itself be considered a shinui, a significant enough change, and the fire is therefore considered covered even if it needed to be (Shulchan Shlomo, I:253, p. 85-86).