SHABBOS 58: SUMMONING THE CHILDREN
YeshivasChachmeiLublin was designed to maintain the highest standards of the day andhad every conceivable convenience. There was even a bell that summoned the bochurim, signaling when seder was about to begin.
A certain visitor to the yeshiva pointed out that using a bell may well be inappropriate. “What is the difference between this bell and a church bell used to call non-Jews to prayer? It is even conceivable that using a bell to summon pupils is forbidden, since, presumably, ringing a bell for this merely emulates this non-Jewish custom,” the visitor said.
Rav Meir Shapiro zt”l thought for a moment and then turned to Rav Pinchos Hirschsprung zt”l, who was widely known for his compelling proofs when replying to complex questions. “What do you think about this man’s claim?” asked the rosh yeshiva.
Rav Pinchos immediately replied with a powerful proof regarding this issue.
“We can learn that this is permitted from Rashi in Shabbos 58. The Gemara there discusses a bell affixed to a cover used to protect seforim. Rashi explains why there was a bell on such coverings. When the seforim were brought into shul, they would ring the attached bell and the children would come to learn. Presumably, nowadays, we can also ring a bell to alert
SHABBOS 59:YERUSHALAYIM SHEL ZAHAV
This daf discusses an unusual adornment, known as an “ihr shel zahav – city of gold.” This was a golden likeness of Yerushalayim worn on a woman’s head. Although the Gemara discusses whether it is permitted to wear this in the public domain on Shabbos, we may well wonder why it was permitted to wear this in public on an ordinary weekday. After all, isn’t an ostentatious ihr she zahav a contradiction to the laws of modesty?
This point is raised in the Medrash Tanchumah. “The rabbonon said, ‘Even during the week it is prohibited to go out with an ihr shel zahav,since it draws the eye. Wearing something that will make others stare is inappropriate. A woman may wear this adornment in her home, but not in public.’
But this makes us wonder why Rebbi Akiva chose to give his wife an ihr shel zahav as a token of his appreciation for all her support and encouragement.
The Vilna Gaon zt”l explains, ‘Rebbi Akiva gave her specifically this adornment to allude to the wellsprings of chochmah that he acquired through his wife’s self-sacrifice. It was therefore appropriate for such a golden adornment to grace her head. It was only through her encouragement and forbearance that Rebbi Akiva attained his learning and greatness” (Medrash Tanchumah,Parshas Vayishlach;Vilna Gaonon Mishlei, 1:9).
SHABBOS 60: THE TELEGRAM
The Maharsham zt”l recounts that a certain dayan was confronted by a strange situation. The family of a very sick man insisted that they must ask Rav Shalom of Belz zt”l to daven for the ill man’s recovery. But it was Shabbos and the rebbe lived in faraway Belz. The family of the sick man wondered if they could ask a non-Jew to send a telegram to the rebbe. Although this is usually forbidden, they reasoned that it should be allowed in their case, just like other prohibitions – especially rabbinic prohibitions – are waived to save a Jew’s life. After all, we find on Shabbos 60 that even an amulet – clearly not a natural means of healing – may be worn on Shabbos in the public domain. Although the amulet must be known to effectively heal or to have been written by a proven expert healer with amulets, they reasoned that consulting with a tzaddik who is known to work miracles should have at least as much halachic validity. At the very least, since they were certain he could help, it should be important enough to waive some rabbinic prohibitions.
The dayan ruled leniently and they quickly found a non-Jew to send the telegram.
When the telegram arrived at the home of Rav Shalom of Belz on Shabbos, he was very upset. He immediately took to task the dayan who had permitted them to send the telegram and stripped him of his right to decide halachic questions.
For the entire day, the rebbe remained preoccupied by this telegram. He explained that it was now his obligation to do everything possible to ensure that the sick man recovers. “The only way sending the telegram would be justified according to all opinions is if the sick man recovers completely!” Shortly after Shabbos, the man did, in fact, recover (Shu”t Maharsham,Part II, 225; See Birkei Yosef, siman 301:6).
SHABBOS 61: UPLIFTING THE MUNDANE
The path of the Baal Shem Tov is very focused on “elevating holy sparks,” a concept with which chassidim identify even now. As the Otzar Hayirah writes, “Everything we do elevates holy sparks. Even while one is involved in business or any other mundane activity, it is quite easy to accomplish this. All one must do is remember that he is doing Hashem’s will and that Hashem is right there with him. In this manner, he elevates the ground he is standing on until it has the spiritual quality of Yerushalayim. The same is true if one manages to utter even a short prayer that he merit to perceive the holiness of what he is doing.”
Misnagdim demanded a source for focusing on elevating the material world. After all, why focus on such abstruse spiritual work? Wouldn’t it be better for one to simply think in learning?
The Munkatcher Rebbe zt”l offered a very satisfying answer. “The Baal Shem Tov and those who came after him had many ways to elevate the material world. In every situation, they had specific methods to focus their attention on connecting to Hashem. The misnagdim would laugh when they heard about this. Perhaps they should consider the words of the Rama of Pano, a huge gaon in both the revealed and the hidden Torah, that there is no such thing as divrei reshus. Mundane activities done as is fitting for the sake of heaven are a mitzvah, as we find in Shulchan Aruch (siman 231), and, if not, then they are the opposite. Nevertheless, this merely proves that the action itself is important as a means to an end. For example, if one eats for the sake of heaven to serve Hashem and uses the energy to serve Hashem, this elevates what he ate. We still do not see that one should focus on the eating or other mundane matters as a means to connect to Hashem.
“But there is a source to this practice from Shabbos 61. There we find that the law of which shoe one should tie first is learned from which hand one uses to tie his tefillin. This is also the halacha in Orach Chaim, siman 2. On the surface, this seems exceedingly strange. What does how one ties his shoes have to do with how he fulfills the mitzvah of tefillin? Every detail of tefillin – how it is fashioned, how to put it on and more – is regulated by halacha, enabling one to soar to great heights through this precious mitzvah. How can one compare by any means mundane garments or footwear to tefillin? We can only understand the relevance of tefillin to tying shoes in light of the teachings that one can also reach spiritual heights when involved in mundane matters of this world.
“In the Yerushalmi we find another compelling point: ‘The Gemara there discusses how many nails must be in a shoe for the nails to be considered an adornment, since one is permitted to walk with the shoe in a public domain when the superfluous nails are not considered a burden. There, Rav Yochanan says, ‘Five, like the five Chumashim…’
“There are several other opinions mentioned there, all numbers which allude to something else, including the mishmaros in the Mikdosh. We learn again that one should focus on a spiritual element, even regarding the design of his shoes. The same holds true for other mundane matters.”
Interestingly, the Alter of Kelm zt”l agreed with the chassidim in this matter. “While eating, one should focus on the proper kavanah, as is known,” he says. (Divrei Torah,part I, os 24; Pinkas Hakabalos, p. 143).
SHABBOS 62: POVERTY AND WEALTH
On Shabbos 62, we find listed a number of behaviors that lead to poverty. The two most relevant today are the disgracing of netilas yodayim and if a man infuriates his wife and drives her to curse him to his face.
The Maharal zt”l explains why specifically these things lead to poverty. “Part of the character of wealth is that it brings one honor, as we find in Kiddushin 49: ‘It is proper to honor a person for his wealth.’ One who acts shamefully or disgraces netilas yodayim is distant from blessing. Obviously, one who acts shamefully is the opposite of honor and will not attain wealth, which would bring him honor. Disgracingnetilas yodayim can also lead to poverty. This man is not careful to shower blessing on his hands which symbolize his toil to earn a living. Causing one’s wife to curse him has a similar effect, since a husband and wife are considered one. Sadly, if one’s wife curses him, it is as if he cursed himself. Thus, the negative repercussions are quick to follow.
“But one who honors his wife and is careful to wash his hands with an abundance of water will merit wealth!” (Chiddushei Aggados, Shabbos 62; Bava Metzia 59).
SHABBOS 63: THE VIRTUES OF THE IGNORANT
During the war between France and Austria which began in 1809, the Chasam Sofer zt”l was suspected of espionage and was forced to flee Pressburg. Once, he stayed at the home of a very generous but ignorant man. It was something of a shock to the Chasam Sofer when he heard his host slander him for no reason that he could fathom.
At the soonest opportunity, the Chasam Sofer took his host aside and asked why he had spoken against him. He was shocked by the man’s reply. “Shouldn’t I speak against a guest staying at my home who blatantly disregards halacha?” the man bluntly replied. “I saw with my own eyes how you skipped Kiddush on Shabbos morning, saying only borei pri hagofen on a cup of wine. You also sat during Kiddush.I may be simple, but I am G-d-fearing and cannot put up with by people who disregard halacha.”
The Chasam Sofer patiently explained his host’s error to him until he finally comprehended that it was he who was in the wrong. Not surprisingly, he apologized to the Chasam Sofer and stopped speaking against him.
Much later, when describing this experience, the Chasam Sofer commented. “I believe this man misunderstood and slandered me as punishment for failing to obey the dictum of our sages on Shabbos 63. There we find that one should not live in the vicinity of an am ha’aretz.”
The Chasam Sofer added that there was also a positive outcome to this experience, however.
“I was also very pleased to see this man’s steadfastness, despite his lack of learning. Having noticed the climate of heresy gearing up in the world, I was worried about the future of Torah Judaism. Witnessing this man’s stubbornness was therefore very comforting. It was wonderful to find a simple person so determined to keep every detail of his understanding of halacha. Through people like him Torah will continue undiluted!” (Divrei Torah, gilyon 279, p. 2).
SHABBOS 64: KASHERING THE KEILIM
Rav Mendel of Rimanov zt”l once described an intriguing segulah: “If one is beset by illicit thoughts, he should read the parsha of hagolas keilim in Parshas Mattos. This will help him guard his thoughts.”
The Pardes Shamai explains the connection in light of the words of the Chiddushei Harim zt”l. “In Shabbos 64 we find that when Moshe taught that even the non-kosher matter absorbed in the vessels taken from Midyan needed to be removed, the Jewish people learned an important lesson. If what is absorbed in a vessel must be cleansed, surely the same holds true for illicit thoughts that were not acted upon, even though they remained inside the mind. They learned that thoughts of sin are also sins and must be atoned for.
“In light of this, we can understand why reading the parsha of hagolas keilim helps with illicit thoughts!” (Pardes Shamai, Parshas Mattos).