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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Behar-Bechukotai

Parshat Behar-Bechukotai

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Behar-Bechukotai                                                              Print Version
27th of Iyar, 5778 | May 12, 2018

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky 
Pushing Down the Crease

There used to be a time at my Shabbos table when my children repeatedly asked me to tell over the same joke again and again. It went like this.

There were once two folks, Yankel and Berel, living out on the street. One day, Yankel turns to Berel and says, “Why don’t you go into that store there and buy us some beer?” “But I don’t have any money,” Berel replies. “Don’t worry,” Yankel says, as he reaches into his pocket, “take this and go get us something to drink.” Sure enough, Berel picks himself up and staggers inside.

“Excuse me sir, I would like to buy some beer.” “Do you have any money?” the storeowner asks. “Sure I do,” Berel replies, pulling out the few coins Yankel so generously gave him. The storeowner grabs a bottle of beer and hands it to Berel, who immediately turns around and begins heading out the door.

“Wait, wait!” yells the owner. “You cannot just take the bottle outside! You need to put it in something.” “Alright, alright,” Berel acquiesces, “you can put it in my hat…” Berel turns his hat inside out, the crown facing downwards and towards the floor. Slowly, the beer is poured into the hat until it is just about filled up completely. But Berel is not completely satisfied. “There is still some more room; put it over here.” And with that, Berel flips his hat right back up, now with the crown facing up and his hand pointing to the crease where the owner can add more beer. The storeowner shakes his head as Berel foolishly fails to notice the beer spilling out onto the floor.

Out comes Berel smiling at the fine-tasting beer he has ready for Yankel to indulge in. Yankel takes one look at the little beer sitting in the crease of Berel’s hat and scratches his head. “That’s all you got!” “No, no, no,” Berel jubilantly says, as he turns over his hat upside down once again. “There’s more over here…”

Now what do we learn from this? Aside from the fact that I would do almost anything to entertain my children at the Shabbos table, there is an important lesson embedded here. Berel could have gained more beer and saved himself a whole hat-full of lost beer by simply pushing down the crease from inside the hat.

As we approach the holiday of Shavuos and the days when we receive the Torah, there is one idea we must internalize. How much Torah we receive is equal to how much room there is to put in. If there is more room, more Torah can be put in.

Otherwise, we will receive less because there is simply less room. Recall the story (Melachim II 4:1-7) where Elisha HaNavi continues to fill up the poor lady’s flasks with oil until there are no more flasks remaining. Had there been more flasks, more oil could have been given to her. It is commensurate to how much space there is to fill that something can be placed there, whether it be oil or, in the case of Kabbalas HaTorah, Torah wisdom and understanding. Hashem will give us as much spirituality as we can receive. The only prerequisite is that there is a place to put it.

As a child growing up, my father a”h owned a flower shop, which fortunately did quite well. All my brothers consistently assisted my father in the business, with the exception of me. I was the black rose in the family. But once a year on Mother’s Day when florists make the overwhelming majority of what they earn throughout the entire year, I was recruited to deliver flower arrangements. And so, I would take a flower arrangement and ring the doorbell with my elbow.

I remember a woman once opening the door and staring at me. “Hi,” I said, “I am here for a flower delivery.” “From whom?” asked the woman. “Probably from one of your children,” I replied. “Fine, please come in.” I headed inside and she said, “Oh, I don’t know where to put the flowers because I didn’t prepare a place for it.” “Listen lady,” I said, “I’ll tell you where I am going to put it in a minute… because these flowers are heavy…”

It’s a simple equation. The woman wasn’t expecting the flowers and she therefore had nowhere to put it. The same is true of Shavuos. If a person simply prances into Shavuos without any place where the Torah can be placed, there will be nowhere to put it. Torah is something which must be prepared for in advance.

Yet, now comes the big question. What are we supposed to do to prepare ourselves? How do we create the space to allow the Torah to reside?

Chazal tell us, “Derech eretz kadma la’Torah – Proper behavior precedes Torah” (Vayikra Rabah 9:3). In simple terms, in order to receive the Torah, it is a prerequisite to be a mentsch, a refined and upstanding person. Appropriate and respectable character traits are what reform and refine a person and push down the crease in the hat to allow more Torah to be received. We create the repository within ourselves for Torah to enter and Hashem fills us up with it.

Let me share a few examples of great people who exemplified this dictum.

When Rav Hillel Zaks, grandson of the Chofetz Chaim, was learning in the Lakewood yeshiva, he was once questioned as to why he does not daven at the yeshiva minyan in the morning. “Well,” he explained, “what can I tell you? I do not sleep in late. I have my tefillin in my hand and am on my way when I see this woman with a bunch of little kids and no one to help her. So what do I do? I put down my tefillin and help her get the kids dressed, make lunches for them and walk them out the door. By the time I am done, it is too late to daven at the yeshiva minyan, so I daven elsewhere.”

Everyone was taken aback to hear of such kindness and thoughtfulness displayed by the grandson of the Chofetz Chaim. “Who is this woman?” they inquired. They wondered if perhaps a rotation of some sort could be set up to assist her on a daily basis. “Her name is Mrs. Zaks,” replied Reb Hillel.

We might tend to think that when it comes to helping other people aside from our closest family relatives, including our wives, that we are engaging in wonderful acts of kindness. It is then that we have risen to earn the honorable title of a great person. But, in truth, helping one’s wife is no less great, if not greater. “Nosei b’ol im chaveiro,” carrying the burden of a friend, includes our spouse, and is equally so, along with all other middos, a prerequisite to acquiring Torah. It is an amazing phenomenon. The more we work on being a genuinely happy person, scaling up the ladder of purity and learning to listen and understand, the more we are prepared and capable of being a repository for Torah. The two may not seem to bear any direct correlation to each other, but our Sages let us in on a secret. They actually have everything to do with each other.

Rav Yitzchak Elchonon Spektor once was trying to assist a boy avoid the draft into the Russian army. After much hard and tiring work, another yeshiva student ran into him with good news. “Rebbe, Rebbe,” the boy said excitingly, “he was released from the army!” Rav Yitzchak Elchonon was relieved. “Ah, Baruch Hashem. Thank you for telling me.” A few minutes later, another boy came running in. “Rebbe, Rebbe, did you hear? He was let out of the army!” “Baruch Hashem,” Rav Yitzchak Elchonon sighed, “thank you for telling me.”

After the boy left the room, the surrounding students turned to Rav Yitzchak Elchonon for an explanation. “Rebbe,” they politely spoke up, “didn’t you already know that information from the first boy?” “I did,” Rav Yitzchak Elchonon replied, “but the boy didn’t know that I knew, and he wanted the thrill of being able to tell me personally.”

In my line of work as a speaker, I often have people come over to me and say, “Rabbi, I have a joke you can use.” They then begin sharing the joke with me, which takes about three minutes when it could have been told in about twenty-five seconds. They set up the background, describe the people involved and on and on. This is all considering that I know the joke already. But I just continue standing there and smile, knowing that it gives the other person so much pleasure to tell me the joke with enthusiasm.

It wouldn’t make me a better person if I would say, “Yeah, yeah, I know that one already.” What improves my middos and makes me a more kind and considerate person is standing there and listening to the joke I’ve heard time and again. That, believe it or not, is how we prepare ourselves for Kabbalas HaTorah. Not necessarily listening to jokes, but keenly listening to others with an attentive ear, carrying the burdens of our friends in our hearts and fulfilling the remaining of the forty-eight ways enumerated in Pirkei Avos. This is how we push down the crease. The more we work on making ourselves into a different type of person, the more we will receive the Torah.

As is the custom, people stay up throughout the night of Shavuos learning Torah. For most people, their greatest hours of learning do not take place that night as they struggle to keep their eyes open and sip yet another cup of coffee. What then is the point of staying up? Why do we push ourselves to learn then when we would likely learn better were we to get a good night’s sleep and learn the entire day of Shavuos?

The answer is that the holiday is named Shavuos, weeks. The Yom Tov is a celebration of the weeks of preparation which took place before the Yom Tov itself. In essence then, what we celebrate is preparation for Kabbalas HaTorah, which on the Yom Tov itself, occupies the night time slot before we read the Aseres HaDibros in shul the following morning.

The night shift is therefore the most optimal time to learn Torah because that epitomizes the Yom Tov and what we are striving for entirely. Preparation by refining our middos and opening our hearts and minds to Torah is what allows for the subsequent momentous moment of Matan Torah, when Hashem gives us the Torah, to take place and impact us most powerfully. Hashem pours the Torah into us. All we must do is clear out a space for it. Push down the crease and make a place for the Torah to fill us up. Once we do that, we will be well suited for an upward climb of spirituality, of Torah and of closeness to Hashem.

Rabbi Shlomo Farhi 
Learning from the Flowers

We are all so busy in life, with many things to take care of on a daily basis. Yet, as we will all readily admit, we can never get so overly subsumed in the hustle and bustle of life that we forget about what really matters to us. Take a moment and think to yourself, what are some of the best ways you can show someone that you really love them?

The Torah describes the epic moment of Maamad Har Sinai, when Hashem transmitted the Luchos and the entirety of Torah to the Jewish people. The earth became uniformly silent and deeply still, as the Jews witnessed an overwhelming sight of booming thunder and lightning, raging fire and billowing smoke which surrounded Mount Sinai. It was amid this magnificent scene that Hashem Himself set forth the eternal mission to the Jewish people to become partners with Him in Creation and perpetuate His will in the world. It was an unbelievable moment wherein the greatest mission of all history was handed down from Heaven to earth.

Amidst this impressive scene, we are taught a very peculiar idea. The Midrash relates that Mount Sinai sprouted grass and flowers. And to this very today, florists will tell you that they are inundated with orders from the Jewish communities during the days preceding Shavuos as we buy flowers to fill our homes to commemorate this phenomenon. Yet it is quite strange. Why would this be something which Hashem wished to draw our attention to? With everything going on at Har Sinai, no one would be to blame were the flowers to go unnoticed. Why then did Hashem make a point of having Har Sinai full of beautiful flowers?

As seen in the Torah, there is another famous mountain in Jewish history other than Har Sinai. Har HaMoriah serves as the holy site whereupon the Akeidas Yitchak took place, and upon which the two structures of the Beis Hamikdash stood and where the Third will soon be rebuilt. It is a mountain of extreme holiness and sanctity.

You may ask, though, what is the etymology of Har HaMoriah? Why in fact is it named such? The Gemara (Shabbos 89a) relates the Har Sinai is called such as it engendered the sinah, hatred, of the other nations of the world, for upon that mountain we assumed the role of the Chosen Nation of G-d and forever became the bearers and representatives of G-d’s sanctified Name. But what about Har HaMoriah?

The Zohar (Parshas Bo, 156) explains that Mount Moriah is called such because of the Mor, or myrrh, known to be a pleasant-smelling fragrance, which grows there. In recognition of such myrrh, the mountain assumed such a name.

But the obvious question begs. Why would such an important and esteemed site be called after something which appears to be so relatively insignificant or inconsequential? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call the mountain after something which indicates dedication, sacrifice or commitment? That would seem to be much more befitting considering its stature.

In truth, however, the name Har HaMoriah perfectly fits the mountain. And that is because what communicates devotion and love most aptly are those things which often go unnoticed because they seem so small and underrated. The flowers you buy your spouse, the little note you leave under their pillow and the small act of cleaning the dishes without being asked. Those gestures are what develop and deepen the most special of relationships. Those small thoughts which convey care and concern speak far louder than grandiose acts which overwhelm all those in sight.

Hashem therefore named Har HaMoriah as such, after the myrrh, precisely because it appears as so minor and unimportant. Hashem means to convey that in Yiddishkeit and by His standards, what matters most is not necessarily quantity and volume, but quality and heart. The small things which are done go the longest ways. The extra effort you push yourself to daven with a minyan, the extra thought put in as to how you can adhere to the details of a mitzvah, and the extra care you take to endear and enhance Torah and Yiddishkeit for others mean the world.

Those small gestures, which are generally underappreciated or not even appreciated by anyone, mean everything to Hashem. 

And that is exactly why Hashem made a point of having flowers adorn Har Sinai. Yes, in the larger scheme of the Giving of the Torah, beautiful flowers are unimportant, but that is precisely the message. What appears to matter so little, matters so much. That is what Hashem values and what He wishes for us to value as well.

Our relationship with Hashem and with our spouses, children, family and friends works all in the same way. The small expressions of love are the greatest expressions of love. Do something small and you are doing something big. On the most momentous day in the history of the world, this is one secret Hashem shared with us. Remember it for the rest of your life, and you can rest assured that all your relationships will always be blossoming as beautiful as ever.

A Short Message From 
Rabbi Moshe Don Kestenbaum

Our Sages (Shabbos 127a) tell us that the mitzvah of learning Torah is k’neged kulam, equivalent to all the other mitzvos. Yet why in fact is this so? What is so special about the particular mitzvah of learning Torah that it trumps all others?

Imagine all the various elements to a wedding. There is a band, a caterer, a photographer, flowers and the chosson’s suit and kallah’s gown. These are all important parts of a wedding, which enhance and enliven the joy of this special day. Yet, what is the most important of everything? What makes the wedding a wedding? The chosson and kallah themselves.

The same is true with Torah. It is true that in the event no one else can perform a mitzvah at hand, one is required to pause their Torah study and engage in the mitzvah, yet the ultimate goal of all the chesed and other mitzvos we perform is to further our ability to grow closer to Hashem, which is most primarily done when learning His Torah. Learning Torah is akin to the chosson and kallah themselves, without whom no wedding can take place. The other amenities are most certainly needed at the wedding, but what actually makes the wedding are those two people. The Torah, in relation to other mitzvos, is the same.

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