SHABBOS 51: THE HEICHAL OF MELODY
For many chassidim, niggun plays a large role in theiravodas Hashem. The Maggid of Mezritch zt”l taught of the power of song to uplift one’s soul. “In Shabbos 51, we find that baalei shir, animals that require a special collar with a leash, yotzin beshir, may go into the public domain with shir, with their collar and leash, venimshochin beshir, and are led with shir. This teaching also alludes to a deep truth in avodas Hashem. Baalei shir, those who sing, yotzin beshir, are enabled to do teshuvah with song. If they will sing with longing for Hashem, they will emerge from all sin, venimshochin beshir, and they will also be drawn with shir. Through song, it is possible for one to feel a kind of magnetic pull to Hashem. This is the power of heartfelt shirah,when it is sung for the right reasons.
“Rav Moshe of Kovrin zt”l would underscore this teaching with the following: ‘The velt says that the word chazzan is an acronym for the Yiddish folk saying, ‘Chazonin zennen naaronim – Chazzanim are fools.’ But why are chazzanim singled out? The answer can be understood when we consider the power of song. The HHHHJHhhheichal of niggun is so exalted; it is right next to the heichal of teshuvah. A successful chazzan must sing with his whole heart and at least touch the heichal ofneginah. If he focuses on the words while singing, he will naturally be inspired and enter the heichel of teshuvah. A chazzan who won’t exert himself to forge this deep connection to Hashem while singing is truly a fool!’” (Nitei Eeshel, Likkutim).
SHABBOS 52: THE DONKEY AND ITS BLANKET
When the Yismach Yisroel of Alexander zt”l passed away, his son, the Tiferes Shmuel zt”l, replaced him.
One chossid didn’t really feel connected to the new rebbe. One day, he recalled the words of his former rebbe’s advice about how to overcome the natural desire to immerse in materialism. “In Shabbos 52, we find that a donkey can go into the public domain with a mirda’as, a kind of blanket to keep it warm. We can explain that the Hebrew word for donkey, chamor, alludes to materialism or chomrius. In order to overcome the ‘chamrius’ that naturally enters when a person is in the public domain, he must connect with the mirda’as. The Hebrew word for master is Mar. ‘Mirda’as’alludes to a tzaddik who rules over his da’as.”
He was suddenly struck by a desire to travel to the Tiferes Shmuel and did so, relating this precious vort when he arrived. HThe new rebbe pointed out that perhaps the chossid had not understood it entirely. “You know that the Gemara there permits covering the donkey with a mirda’as. This means that one who once had a connection is not enough. He must remain covered by the influence and pathway of the tzaddik by connecting to him and staying present. Only then can he nullify his tendency to overindulge in materialism” (Tiferes Rabboseinu M’Alexander, p. 134).
SHABBOS 53: THE DONKEY IN TAMMUZ
In Europe, it can be cold even during the summer. One summer evening, it was so cold that Rav Yonason Eibeshitz zt”l put on a light coat before venturing into the street. One of those who hated the rov decided he would have a little fun at the rov‘s expense. He strolled over to him and said, “In Shabbos 53 we find that only a donkey can go out with a blanket, since a donkey feels cold even during Tammuz. Doesn’t that tell us something about one who feels the need to wear a coat during Tammuz?”
Rav Eibeshitz immediately replied with the language of the very same Gemara his detractor had quoted: “A donkey is cold even during Tammuz.”
“What do you mean?” the man asked.
Rav Eibeshitz answered, “You see, only a donkey cares about what others will think when he acts in an appropriate manner. For example, if it is cold during Tammuz, a human being will put on a coat so as not to be cold. A donkey will not. Why? Because he is afraid of what others will say…”
SHABBOS 54: IN THE PUBLIC EYE
It has long been the practice that merchants pay for the privilege of being purveyors of food and others goods for the army so that they can turn a large profit. But, of course, no merchant could afford to buy kosher food to sell to the army which is filled with non-Jews. Although selling non-kosher meat on a regular basis is definitely prohibited, one rov wondered if he was required to protest this. After all, it was not as though there was any chance that these merchants would forgo such easy profits merely because he protested. Nevertheless, he was the rabbi in a city where several merchants made a handsome living by buying treife meat and selling it to the army, so if a protest was required, he was the one who should lodge it. On the other hand, perhaps the rule that it is better for those who won’t listen anyway to be shogeg and not meizid applied.
When this question was presented to Rav Shlomo Kluger zt”l, he ruled that the rov was obligated to protest. “If selling non-kosher meat is a Torah violation, it is obvious that you must protest. And even according to the authorities that this prohibition is rabbinic, you are still obligated to protest.
“As far as the rule that it is preferable for those who will not heed rebuke to be shogeg instead of meizid, this is only relevant regarding a prohibition that is not public, but a sinner who violates a prohibition publicly must be rebuked. Ignoring his sin will cause others to emulate the sinful behavior, since they will reason that if it was really problematic, the rov would rebuke him.
“Although this is obvious, we can bring a proof from Shabbos 54. There we find that when the neighbor of Rav Elazar ben Azarya took her cow to the public domain with a strap between its horns, our sages call it the cow of Rav Elazar ben Azarya because he did not rebuke the perpetrator. In the Yerushalmi, we find that Rav Elazar ben Azarya fasted a great deal to atone for this sin.
“How could Rav Elazar ben Azarya have been derelict in his obligation to rebuke? It seems clear that he knew that she would not have listened anyway. He therefore reasoned that he was not obligated to rebuke her. The sages disagreed, since her action was done in public. This was the error for which he repented all those years!” (Shu”t Tuv Ta’am, Part III,siman 7).
SHABBOS 55: THE MERIT OF OUR FATHERS
Rav Zusia of Anapoli zt”l had his own special way to interpret the words of Chazal in a positive light.
“On Shabbos 55,” he said, “we find that some hold that tamu zechus avos. This should not be understood, as some say, that the merit of our fathers has run out. Quite the contrary! The word tamu here should be understood in the sense of temimus, completion, as we find in the verses, ‘Toras Hashem temimah,’ and, ‘Tomim tihiye im Hashem Elokecha.’ Even though it has been so long and we still have not been redeemed, nevertheless, zechus avos is still completely intact” (Sifsei Tzaddikim, p. 168).
SHABBOS 56: THE PRACTICE SHOFAR
Kashrus mashgichim sometimes find themselves in strange places and unusual circumstances as they travel around the world.
One mashgiach found himself in Japan with little kosher food and few Jewish amenities. Since he was an excellent baal tokeia and the Yomim Noraim were fast approaching, he was planning to make time to practice blowing the shofar every day. On the day he arrived in Japan, he realized that his shofar had been left behind. The only shofar he could procure was from an animal that had been worshipped and then sacrificed. He wondered if he was permitted to use this shofar. After all, the halacha is that if a shofar from an animal that was worshiped while alive is used, it discharges one’s obligation. Although one may not use such a shofar lechatchilah, if one did so, he is yotzeh. In such a case, fulfilling a mitzvah is not a way to derive personal benefit or pleasure; it is merely a means of fulfilling the King’s decree. So perhaps he was permitted to blow to practice, too. After all, wasn’t his entire situation bedieved? Besides, he certainly had no pleasure from practicing blowing the shofar. Since he wasn’t paid for blowing, perhaps he could use this shofar, at least until he got home.
When this question was presented to Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, he ruled that it is forbidden to use this shofar. “Although this man is not making money from blowing the shofar,” said Rav Zilberstein, “the Ben Ish Chai rules that blowing for a congregation is still considered a hana’ah, since the congregation appreciates this and will reciprocate in one way or another” (Mishnah Berurah, 586:3,14; Chashukei Chemed, p. 294.)
SHABBOS 57: THE HONORABLE GARMENT
On this daf, we find that the prohibition against shatnez does not apply to an istama, a piece of felt that is used to bind up the hairs that would otherwise escape from a head covering. The Ramban explains that this is because an istama is a kind of adornment and not a garment.
A certain proud father wondered whether this also applied to the beautiful tie he had chosen to wear at his son’s wedding. Unfortunately, he found out a bit late that the tie he had purchased was made of wool and linen, clearly shatnez. Yet, a tie is presumably more of an adornment than a garment.
When this question was presented to Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, he forbade the man to wear the tie.
“The Avnei Yashpe zt”l infers from the Taz that shatnez applies to any garment, even if it is worn as an adornment,” said Rav Zilberstein. “Although I don’t think his inference is conclusive, Rav Chaim Kanievsky discusses this in Derech Emunah. There we find that, according to the Shita Mekubetzes, such a garment is prohibited by the rabbonon. The Tosafos Rid argues and rules that wearing a garment that gives honor to the wearer is the same as wearing a garment to warm oneself. If such a garment is shatnez, the one wearing it violates a Torah prohibition” (Chashukei Chemed, Zeraim Part I, p. 561-562).