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Category Archives: Dvar Torah

“I Believe!!”

In this week’s parsha, Behar, (for those outside Israel), we find the mitzvah to observe the laws of the shmittah year- the Torah instructs a person to desist from working his field and rather he must leave it fallow. The Torah promises “that if one will ask, what are we to eat in the 7th year”……. Then he has nothing to fear because Hashem will bestow a special berachah (blessing) on the 6th year’s growth so that there will be enough to carry him through the year of inaction.

The commentators ask, why would a person be worried about what he is going to eat during the 7th year, surely in that year he has all the produce reaped from his efforts in the 6th year, it ought to be the 8th year which troubles him, what will he eat following a full year of inaction?

An answer offered is as follows- being worried about how he will fare in the 8th year is as short sighted as being worried about the 7th. Since it is He, Who created the world and runs all that happens in it, is instructing us to desist from working the land, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. In the same way that He is the source of all that grew on the 6th and eaten in the 7th, so too He can and will provide for the 8th. The message of shmittah is clear- He is the provider of everything- all we need to do is believe!

R’ Ezer Pine

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Burning Clothes on Lag B’Omer

Many people make bonfires on Lag B’Omer. Some use clothes as fuel. Is this allowed? We know that we are not allowed to chop down trees nor are we allowed to waste other things – we may not break items or tear clothes or waste food. Some hold that if there is a benefit it is permitted. But it is not clear that using clothes for a bonfire on Lag B’Omer is considered enough of a need.

Many authorities hold that one should not burn clothes on Lag B’Omer. Even at the times of great joy during the Simchas Beis Hashoava in the Beis HaMikdosh on Sukkos they would only light worn out clothes. Others are more lenient as the intention of the people doing it is for a mitzvah and it is custom of the Jewish people. Furthermore, we light multiple candles in shul during the day even though there is no benefit in those lights. Why? Because they are lit to honour the shul.

Since it is a dispute, it would seem that a person should be stringent and use clothes that are no longer suitable for usage. (Maadanei Yom Tov)

The Burning Aspiration To Achieve

Immediately after our redemption from Egypt, we began to count toward the goal of the redemption, what gave the redemption purpose and meaning: receiving of the Torah.

The Midrash (Berishis Rabbah 58:3) relates that Rabbi Akiva was giving a shiur, and the students began to lose interest and fall asleep. In order to rouse them, he said: “What did Esther perceive that enabled her to rule over 127 provinces? Let Esther, who was the descendent of our matriarch Sarah who lived 127 years, come and rule over 127 provinces.” The students perked up immediately, and Rabbi Akiva continued the shiur.

The Michtav MeEliyahu explains the deeper meaning of this midrash. The students of Rabbi Akiva lost interest in what he was expounding because they felt that the level of attainment that Rabbi Akiva was exhorting them to achieve was beyond their grasp. Rabbi Akiva pointed out their mistake: Esther was able to reach the level she did because her entire life she aspired to reach the level of Sarah Imeinu, who controlled and utilized ever moment of her 127 years of life. Esther did not manage to attain the lofty status of Sarah, but because of her striving she was able to reach the level of royalty inherent in the 127 provinces over which she ruled.

A person’s ultimate level is different from the level he is on. It is so different that it can be overwhelming. During the sefiras ha’omer everyone has a potential level to aspire to. Although it may be far and beyond the level one is currently on, if one does not aspire to reach his ultimate level, he will never even come close.
(Rabbi Zev Leff)

Parshas Emor (for those outside Israel)

At the end of the parsha there is the episode of the man who did an awful deed, he blasphemed G-d. His crime was that he blasphemed G-d, yet the Torah introduces the crime by telling us that a man went out and they fought in the camp (24:10). Why do we need this is introduction (R’ Leib Chasman – quoted)? The question is also asked why did the Torah spell out the story of the blasphemer and “disgrace” Hashem? It would seem to have been more appropriate to just tell us what is the halacha if such a thing were to happen (Rabbeinu Bechaya – quoted)!

Perhaps the Torah is hinting to us the root of his bad ways. Someone who can fight and quarrel can land up cursing G-d! Perhaps the idea is that when a person gets involved in a dispute, it consumes him and this is the only thing that matters. Anything that stands in his way deserves to be trodden on. His ego won’t give in. Nothing can stop him.

Teachers Training 101

This week’s parsha, Emor ,contains many laws relating to the life of a Kohen, someone from the priestly tribe. The commentators point out that generally, in the Torah, when Hashem relates the need to fulfill a new commandment, we find the term “vayedaber Hashem” – and Hashem spoke [to Moshe], which implies an authoritative, somewhat harsh tone reflecting the seriousness of fulfilling the given commandment. However, in this week’s parsha, regarding the special laws governing the lives of the kohanim, we find the softer term of “vayomer” used, why?

An answer offered is as follows. There are many sources which refer to the tribe of the kohanim as being the teachers of the nation, this being the case, the Torah here is telling us an essential lesson regarding successful teaching. If we want to be successful in ensuring that our children maintain their commitment to the values of the Torah, we have to make sure that we portray the keeping of the mitzvos as being a positive privilege and not a heavy burden. By showing an enthusiasm regarding the keeping of the mitzvos by performing them in a keen way even when they might be difficult, we stand the best chance, with Hashem’s help, of ensuring that our children remain loyal to their precious heritage.

R’ Ezer Pine

Sefiras HaOmer

We are now in the midst of the counting of the Omer. These are special days of preparation towards the receiving of the Torah on Shavuos. The Chinuch writes that we count these days to internalize that the ultimate purpose of the Exodus from Egypt was in order for us to receive the Torah and keep to its commandments, therefore we count the days from the Exodus until Shavuos to demonstrate our yearning for this day.

Rav Dessler writes that since the essence of the Exodus from Egypt was the abandonment of the tumah (impurity) of Egypt, we have to check ourselves on every one of these days, perhaps we still have some of that impurity left. Each person has to count for himself (וספרתם לכם) as the verse stresses – you shall count for yourself, since true self-reckoning comes from within. Each person knows exactly which areas he needs to strengthen.

R’ Adam Philip

Lifesaver

In many cities throughout the world where there is a prominent Jewish population, we have been blessed with the organization Hatzalah, who rush to aid in all different types of situations of illness. Sometimes they cannot help, it is too late and the patient dies. We know that a kohen has greater sanctity and is therefore not allowed to defile himself by coming into contact with a corpse. Is a kohen allowed to become a first-aid help for Hatzalah knowing that he risks coming into contact with a dead body?

He is allowed to join Hatzalah. But he needs to act with caution. For example, in a situation where there is a risk of someone dying and there are other members of Hatzalah who are not kohanim and

they are at least as proficient as he is, then he should not defile himself, rather the others should be involved in the recovery processes. However, if there is even a chance that the kohen is

the best person for the job, then obviously he can do whatever is needed. (Shevet HaLevi quoted in Taharas HaKohanim K’Hilchasa)

In any event he should seek council from Rabbanim who are proficient in such matters.

Striving for Perfection

Seforno explains that even though there are blemishes that actually increase the strength and value of an animal, they nevertheless render the animal unfit for sacrifice (parshas Emor). Throughout the Torah we find completion and wholeness taking precedence over quantity. Thus a whole roll takes precedence over a much larger portion of a loaf of bread, in the recitation of hamotzi.

From this we learn that our avodah (service of Hashem) is measured not by quantity, but by how close it comes to perfection. Since Hashem is the ultimate perfection, our goal must be to also achieve the greatest measure of perfection possible for a human being, for we are exhorted to emulate Him and “to be complete with Hashem.” Only by being as close to perfect as possible can we hope to have a relationship with Hashem.

The sages tell us (Berachos 5b) that whether one does more or less is insignificant. What one actually accomplishes in this world is in the hands of Hashem. The main consideration is that one direct and concentrate his heart towards heaven. What we can control is the intensity of our desire and purity of our effort in the quest for perfection.

After the Jewish people were freed from subjugation in Egypt to serve Hashem, the first step in that service was to strive for perfection. That striving took the form of counting seven complete weeks, forty-nine complete days, until the giving of the Torah on the fiftieth day. Fifty represents perfection (fifty gates of wisdom, fifty gates of purity). Our task is to count forty-nine. We are not capable of creating perfection; only Hashem can make something perfect. All we can do is strive towards it. But by counting for forty-nine days, it is as if we counted the fiftieth also. For the fiftieth level is the automatic result of our efforts in securing the first forty-nine.

The Midrash comments: “When are the days of the omer perfect and complete? When we fulfill God’s will” (Vayikra Rabbah 28:3). It is the intensity of our quest for perfection in performing God’s will that infuses our counting of the omer with added meaning and effectiveness.

May we strive for perfection in all that we do, so that our efforts will be crowned by success by Hashem, Who will bring us to the ultimate perfection, “granting His nation strength and blessing it with peace.”
(Rabbi Zev Leff)

*Holier Than Thou? No, Holier Than Now*

This week’s Miller’s Musings is sponsored

לעילוי נשמת לאה בת אברהם

בס”ד

*Miller’s Musings קְדשִׁיםפרשת*

The transmission of the Torah from Moshe to the Jewish people was performed in a very particular manner, leaving nothing to chance in ensuring its legitimacy and integrity. Moshe was to teach all of it to all the Jewish people himself, which may lead us to question why we are told by the sages that due to the fundamental Torah principals contained within Kedoshim, this particular Parsha was said in an assembly of all the Jewish people? If what we have said is accurate, then this Parsha is surely no different to any of the others?

As its name suggests, the theme of this Parsha, is one of holiness. The Zohar states that when the Jewish people reached this section of the Torah, they rejoiced. But why particularly here? You see, explains the Darchei Mussar, before the Jewish people were gathered together and instructed with the words “you shall be holy”, they assumed that holiness would be the domain of the few. Those who could live a life far from physicality, cut off from the needs of the flesh, would be able to attain holiness. But for the average person it would be simply inaccessible. So when Moshe turned to all the Jewish people and enjoined them all to be holy, the people exulted in the knowledge that holiness must be within the reach of each and every one of them. This is the reason for the emphasis of this Parsha being related before all the Jewish people. To teach us this very message, of the universal potential for holiness.

There are those religions that see holiness as the purview of only the most lofty of individuals, who entirely shun a life of bodily pleasure, choosing to live one of asceticism. This, however, is not a Jewish belief. Our Parsha begins with a directive to be holy and then continues with an array of diverse commandments, each one of which carries within it the power to divest greater holiness on the one who performs it. Whether it be honouring parents and the elderly, ethical conduct in business or providing for the impoverished, each one of these mitzvos are means to achieving holiness and each one of them lifts us beyond our previous state. Every mitzvah that we do, every tiny good deed or act of kindness, every chance we take to be better, imbues us with godliness and brings us closer to our purpose. These sparks of holiness are all around us, in every moment of our lives. We must only reach out to grab them to embrace the holiness that they bring.

*May the holiness of Shabbos cultivate the holiness in us*

לעילוי נשמת לאה בת אברהם

Parshas Kedoshim (for those outside Israel)

Hashem told the Jewish people to be holy (19:2). The sages comment that you may have thought that we should be as holy as Hashem; to dispel such a notion, the verse continues, “For I, Hashem, your G-d, am holy” – My holiness is above your holiness.

What are the sages talking about? For one moment did we think that our holiness could ever get close to the holiness of Hashem?

The sages had a different idea in mind. The holiness of Hashem is abstinence from the physical world. Hashem does not eat or drink or sleep. We may have thought that our path to holiness should be in the same way, leading a life void of physicality. No – this is reserved for Hashem. We have a different channel to reach holiness. We achieve holiness through living in a mundane, physical world, utilizing it for Yiddishkeit. (R’ Moshe Shternboch)

Everything in the world can be used productively or destructively, in a way that Hashem approves or in a way that He would rather not. A person can eat to nourish his body and give himself energy to do a good deed or he could use the food to appreciate the kindness of Hashem in giving it to him or on the other hand he could eat the food just to indulge and to satisfy his stomach. One action, yet the results can be entirely different – it just depends on what he is thinking.