Monday, May 27, 2024

The Torah Finesse of Rav Eliyohu Boruch Finkel zt”l

Upon His 15th Yahrtzeit, 24 Adar


Rav Eliyohu Boruch Finkel (5708/1947–5768/2008) was a huge talmid chochom who merited to inculcate thousands of talmidim with the sweetness and depth of Torah as a maggid shiur at Yeshivas Mir in Yerushalayim. His shiurim were renowned for their clarity and amkus. His devotion to his talmidim was profound and, in return, his talmidim loved and adored him.

Rav Eliyohu Boruch was born in Yerushalayim to Rav Moshe and Rebbetzin Nechama Eidel (Levin) Finkel. Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, rosh yeshivas Mir, was his grandfather. Rav Eliyohu Boruch learned in the Mir and became close to Rav Chaim Shmulevitz and Rav Nochum Partzovitz, whom he considered his rebbi muvhak. He married Rebbetzin Chana, daughter of Rav Shlomo Gelman of New York, and went on to become a popular maggid shiur in the Mir until his untimely petirah.

The following are several of his divrei Torah to give you a taste of the Torah finesse that characterized Rav Eliyohu Boruch.

• • • •

Hashem declared regarding the salvation of the Bnei Yisroel from Mitzrayim, “Vehotzeisivehitzalti vegoaltivelokachti” (Shemos 6:6). Rashi and the Rashbam (Pesochim 99b), in the name of the Yerushalmi, say that these four expressions of geulah are the basis for our drinking four cups of wine during the Pesach Seder.

However, in the sugya (Pesochim 108a) where Rav Yehoshua ben Levi teaches that women are obligated in the four kosos because of af hein hayu b’oso haneis, for they were also involved in the miracle, Rashi states that the four kosos are based upon the three times that kos Paroh is mentioned in the Sar Hamashkim’s dream, plus a fourth kos for Birkas Hamazon.

What is the significance of having two sources for the four kosos?

Rav Eliyohu Boruch (Va’eira) cites the Gemara (Brachos 20b) that discusses whether women are biblically obligated in Birkas Hamazon. Rashi says that a reason why they would not be obligated is because Birkas Hamazon is a thank you to Hashem “al ha’aretz hatovah asher nosan loch – for the good land that He gave you,” and women were not given their own portions in Eretz Yisroel.

Accordingly, the four expressions of geulah do not apply to women, because right after the four expressions of geulah, the Torah states veheiveisi, alluding that the entire purpose of the geulah is to enter Eretz Yisroel. Since veheiveisi is not applicable to women because they have no portion, therefore the four expressions of geulah cannot be the source of their obligation in the four kosos. Consequently, Rashi cites the reason of the three kosos of the Sar Hamashkim along with a kos for Birkas Hamazon as the source of the four kosos.

• • • •

The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillin Umezuzah V’Sefer Torah 8:4) rules that the Shiras Hayom is written in a Sefer Torah on thirty lines. The first line, beginning with Az Yoshir, is written regularly until the word leimor. From leimor onward, the shirah is written ari’ach al gabei levainah, brick upon brick. The Brisker Rov infers from this Rambam that the entire text, including the introductory phrase of Az Yoshir, is part of the shirah.

The actual shirah begins with ashira laHashem ki ga’oh ga’ah. Why is the introductory phrase of Az Yoshir included?

Rav Eliyohu Boruch (Beshalach) surmises from the placement of this posuk in the shirah that even Moshe’s desire to say the shirah is reckoned as part of the shirah. The origin of the shirah was from Moshe’s innermost feelings of gratitude to Hashem that manifested itself into actual song. Therefore, most certainly, these feeling are rightfully part of the shirah.

• • • •

The Mishnah Berurah (489:1), based on the instructions of usefartem lochem, rules that the mitzvah of counting Sefirah is incumbent upon every single individual. Consequently, unlike Kiddush and Havdalah, one cannot fulfill Sefirah by merely listening, in the realm of shomeia k’oneh. Rather, everyone must count for themselves.

The Mishnah Berurah does cite some Acharonim who insist that the phrase usefartem lochem is only to teach us that this is not a counting that bais din does as they do regarding Shmittah and Yovel. Therefore, the Torah states usefartem lochem, emphasizing that this is a chiyuv on the entire tzibbur, not solely on bais din. However, one may certainly listen to his friend count Sefirah and fulfill his obligation in this manner.

Rav Eliyohu Boruch (Emor) offers that even these Acharonim, who say that shomeia k’oneh applies to Sefiras Ha’omer, would agree that in a scenario where one forgot to count at night and is counting during the daytime without a brocha (to enable him to resume counting the following night with a brocha), the daytime counting can only be done by himself and not through shomeia k’oneh.

This is because the daytime Sefirah is only a means to continue counting at night, but it, in itself, is not a kiyum mitzvah. It is reckoned as a sippur, so there will be no interruption in the count towards forty-nine days. However, shomeia k’oneh is a mechanism of arvus that only applies with mitzvos. Since the daytime counting is itself not a mitzvah, shomeia k’oneh doesn’t apply.

• • • •

The Gemara (Yoma 28b) details how Avrohom observed the entire Torah, even the precept of eruvei tavshilin, without being obligated. Accordingly, why did Avrohom delay undergoing bris milah until Hashem ordered him to do so?

Rav Eliyohu Boruch (Lech Lecha) offers that it goes without saying that Avrohom observed the seven Noachide mitzvos. Avrohom kept the other taryag mitzvos in the realm of lifnim mishuras hadin, going beyond the letter of the law, as an aino metzuvah v’oseh. The mitzvah of bris milah involves cutting off the arlah. The Torah (Bereishis 9:5) prescribes: “…es dimchem lenafshoseichem adrosh – your blood which belongs to your souls I will demand.” The Medrash says that one is liable for damaging oneself as he is liable for damaging another person. Therefore, Avrohom  was unable to undergo bris milah before he was commanded to do so, as his mitzvas aseh of bris milah, which he was not yet obligated in, was not docheh the lo saaseh of causing oneself harm.

• • • •

The Torah (Bereishis 21:8) tells us that Avrohom made a big party “beyom higamel es Yitzchok.” Rashi explains that this party marked the two-year milestone of Yitzchok finishing nursing from Sarah. This warranted a party to chronicle this landmark in Yitzchok’s life. Additionally, Tosafos (Shabbos 130a) cites a Medrash that the word higamel alludes to bris milah on the eighth day (hi=5, ga=3, mel = bris milah). Avrohom made a party to commemorate Yitzchok’s bris milah.

Certainly, the clear reading of the posuk is that this was a party for Yitzchok’s being weaned. The seudas bris is only hinted to. Why is the seudah of being weaned written explicitly while the seudas bris is only alluded to b’remiza? Is not the seudas mitzvah for a bris milah greater than a seudah for weaning?

Rav Eliyohu Boruch (Vayeira) shares that this seudah wasn’t merely a commemoration of a birthday or Yitzchok’s maturity. Rather, this was a seudah held to publicize the miracle that despite the fact that Sarah was elderly and an akara, nevertheless, “acharei vilosi hoysah li ednah – after I have withered I shall again have delicate skin.” This miracle concluded when Yitzchok matured, and as Rashi (Bereishis 21:7) says, many people brought their infants to be nursed by Sarah.

At this time, the miracle of Sarah’s youthful resurgence and giving birth to Yitzchok became well-known. Avrohom hosted the gedolei hador, Sheim, Eiver and Avimelech, to publicize this miracle.

The lesson herein is that a seudah tendered for persumei nisah, to publicize a miracle, is greater than a seudah tendered for a bris milah. A zeicher ledovor to this is that one is obligated to sell one’s clothing to obtain ner Chanukah and wine for the arbah kosos, mitzvos enacted for pirsumei neis, whereas regarding other mitzvos, we have a rule (Kesubos 50a) that “hamevazveiz al yivazveiz yoser meichomesh – one who lavishes should not lavish more than a fifth.”

• • • •

Rabbon Shimon ben Yochai (Brachos 35b) says: “During the time when Yisroel do not fulfill Hashem’s will, they have to work themselves, as it says, ‘V’asafta degonecha – And you will gather in the grain.’”

The parsha of v’asafta degonecha starts off, “Vehayah im shamoa tishme’u el mitzvosai… And you will listen to My mitzvos … to love Hashem and to serve him with all your heart.” It even says vechol nafshechemall your soul, indicating that we are serving Hashem with mesirus nefesh, full dedication. If so, how can v’asafta degonecha be considered an outcome of not doing Hashem’s will?

Rav Eliyohu Boruch (Eikev) derives from this that even if one is fully dedicated to observing mitzvos b’chol levavchem uv’chol nafshichem, this does not mean that he has attained the level of osin retzono shel Makom. Osin retzono shel Makom is not merely following the Torah and mitzvos. It means fulfilling the ratzon of Hashem. This is the difference between an eved and a son. The eved does whatever the master instructs him to do. The son, though, will do whatever he knows his father wants.

Our maalos are that we, Klal Yisroel, are reckoned as Hashem’s children, and we seek to fulfill Hashem’s ratzon even beyond the scope of mitzvos. However, in an instance where one doesn’t do Hashem’s ratzon, even though we do mitzvos properly, we do not attain that special merit to have melachtam naasis al yedei acheirim.

• • • •

R’ Mendy Pollak learns and teaches Torah on Manhattan’s upper West Side.




Facing the Test

  Parshas Behar opens with the mitzvah of Shmittah. The discussion of the topic begins by stating that Hashem told these halachos to Moshe Rabbeinu

Read More »

My Take on the News

    Five Soldiers Die in Friendly Fire Mishap Tensions are running high in Israel, and even if life seems to be moving along normally

Read More »


Subscribe to stay updated