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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shemini

Parshat Shemini

Compiled and Edited by Torah Time

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Shemini 23rd of Adar II, 5776 | April 2, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Mrs. Sarah Karmely A



"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Shemini
23rd of Adar II, 5776 | April 2, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Mrs. Sarah Karmely
A Wife’s Blessings

'ויברכו את העם וירא כבוד ד

And they blessed the people and the glory of Hashem appeared (Vayikra 9:23)

I once received an email from a woman named Amanda living in Ashdod. Born in Canada, she eventually went on to marry an Israeli man and permanently move to Israel. Life was going relatively smoothly, and only became that much better when she gave birth to her first child. Delighted and eager to build a family, she and her husband were overjoyed when the child was born. It was not too long thereafter that she in fact was expecting her second child. But then life changed.

Suddenly losing his job, her husband was out of work and understandably troubled. With little money to provide for his family, his marriage life began to suffer. Tension and arguments became commonplace in the home and matters went from bad to worse. Continuing to search for work, after much time and effort, he finally found a job working at a construction site.

But their relationship within the home did not become any better. As the wife became quite upset and frustrated with life in general, she began despising her husband. Angry both at her husband and G-d, she became less religious and contemplated running away from her husband. But already with one child and carrying another, she was unsure where to go and what to do.

She decided she would go speak to Chani Freidman at the local Chabad house. Perhaps, she thought, Chani could help her pull through everything. Sitting together with Chani, she began to pour out her heart. “Is my marriage over? I don’t love my husband and I want to leave. What should I do?” Gently looking back at her, Chani handed her a book I had written.

Reading through my book, she was moved by one particular article I had written in which I describe a family relative of mine who lives in Yerushalayim with fourteen children in a two-bedroom apartment. Despite the cramped living quarters, the family is happy.

In the article, I write about one of my visits to the family. Sitting down at the table early in the morning with the husband and wife, we all enjoyed a cup of tea. After a little while, it was time for the husband who owned a Jewish bookstore to go to work. As he got up from the table and began to head out the door, his wife followed him. Looking on as her husband began walking away from the house, she placed her hand on the Mezuzah.

And then she began to bless him, “Hashem, please take care of my husband, protect him, bless him, give him parnassah (income) and grant him success.” After doing so, she returned to the table and took a seat. Having never seen a wife act in such a way for her husband before, I myself was quite impressed. “Sarah,” I said, “I have never seen such a thing before. What you do is beautiful.” “Of course,” she replied, “don’t you know? If a woman blesses her husband, he will have success. If she doesn’t, he will not.”

As Amanda read this anecdote of mine, it suddenly dawned on her. “Why am I being so selfish? My husband is doing the best he can; why should I be upset with him?” And so, she decided to implement into real life what she had read in my book. Every single morning, without fail, as her husband would head out the door to work on his construction site, she placed her hand on the Mezuzah and blessed him.

One time, however, Amanda’s baby kept her up all night. And, as could have been expected, by the time morning rolled around and the time arrived for her husband to leave the house, Amanda remained fast asleep. While her husband did not wish to awaken her, he quietly left the house. But that did not mean he would not receive his daily blessing.

Immediately upon waking up and realizing what had happened, Amanda ran to the telephone. Her husband did not have enough money to afford a cell phone, so communication was kept to the landline. Dialing the office of the construction site, a woman secretary picked up on the other end. “Can you please call my husband to the phone? I need to speak to him.” “Ma’am,” the secretary said, “your husband is on a scaffold right now and is three flights up. It is hard for him to come down to the phone now. Can you call back later?” “No, no, I must speak to him now,” she urgently pressed.

Receiving the message that it was his wife on the phone, the husband, wishing to maintain his shalom bayit which had been improving, descended from the scaffold and entered inside to answer the call. Picking up the phone, Amanda began profusely blessing him and wishing him a wonderful day. Taking in the kind words of his wife, all the husband could say was, “Amen.” Hanging up the phone, the husband was glad he had come to the phone. His wife’s words touched his heart.

But he was even gladder he had come to the phone when he turned around.

Right before his eyes, the scaffold upon which he was standing just minutes before came crashing down. Shocked and not sure if he was dreaming or seeing reality, all he could think about was his wife and her blessings.

While we may question the efficacy of blessing another and sincerely asking that Hashem protect him or her, the truth is that it goes a long way. And in particular, the heartfelt prayers and tears shed by a Jewish wife and mother for her family pierce the heavens. Bringing blessing to her husband and children, she not only protects them in the home, but even outside the home. Indeed, even while facing a dangerous and precarious situation, a Jewish woman’s prayer rains down blessing and saves lives.

Rabbi Avraham Kohan
The Two Signs of a Kosher Jew

זאת החיה אשר תאכלו

These are the animals you may eat… (Vayikra 11:2)

Parashat Shemini touches upon one of the most basic principles of Judaism: keeping kosher. Occupying our focus on every trip to the supermarket and entrance into the kitchen, kashrut unarguably plays a central role in Jewish life. While the many modern- day applications in the kosher kitchen require much study and investigation, the Torah lays down at its core the fundamental signs needed for a kosher species. For animals, they must chew their cud and have split hooves; for fish, they must have fins and scales. Any animal possessing only one of these two signs – i.e. camel, hyrax, hare and pig – are not Kosher like any other animal lacking both signs.

While we may typically associate the word “kashrut” with animals, in truth, it has much to do with human beings as well. Judaism not only entails eating kosher animals, but as Rav Avraham Pam zt”l put it, being a Kosher Jew. In order for one to be a wholesome Jew, there are “two signs” which must be adhered to: mitzvot bein adam la’Makom (commandments between man and G-d) and mitzvot bein adam la’chaveiro (commandments man and man). Shabbat, Kashrut and Family Purity must find equal balance with Tzedakah, business integrity and kindness.

The Gemara (Shabbat 31a) relates the story of a gentile approaching Shammai and asking to convert him on the condition that he teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hearing such an absurd request, Shammai chased the man away with an amat ha’binyan, the measuring rod of a building. But the man would not give up so easily. Continuing to approach Hillel with the same request, Hillel told him, “What is hateful to you do not do to your friend. That is the entire Torah; the rest is its commentary. Go and learn it.”

While the man’s question may appear to be unreasonably foolish on the surface, there is much underlying meaning to it. He was seeking to pinpoint which of the two aspects of mitzvah observance is more central and fundamental to life as a Jew. “Can you tell me which leg the entire Torah stands on?” asked the man. “Which is more important – mitzvot between man and G-d or man and his fellow Jew?” When Shammai heard this, he immediately drove him away with a rod used to lay down the foundation of a building. “You cannot separate between the two,” argued Shammai, “they go hand in hand. If you only have one without the other, your foundation level of Torah observance will be unsteady and the entire structure will collapse.”

But Hillel had a different answer for the man. “While it is true that both of these aspects are interdependent, there is one leg upon which the entire Torah can be said to be predicated upon – mitzvot between man and his fellow. If you treat another only as you yourself would like to be treated, you will have laid down the cornerstone upon which the rest of the Torah can be built.”

In light of this, we can understand an intriguing discrepancy which existed between the two Luchot Moshe descended from Har Sinai with. With the mitzvot bein adam la’Makom occupying one Tablet and the mitzvot bein adam la’chaveiro occupying the second Tablet, there was a sum total of six hundred and twenty letters. However, there was a significant difference between the two. While the Tablet with the mitzvot bein adam la’Makom contained hundreds of letters, the second Tablet describing mitzvot between man and his fellow contained far less. Nevertheless, despite the relatively few letters comprising the mitzvot bein adam la’chaveiro, the Tablet was not any smaller in size. It was the exact same size in length and width.

But this leads to one problem. How could the Tablets have been of equal size if one has hundreds of letters less? What was done with all the extra space? The Mabit (Sefer Beit Elokim, Shaar HaYesodot, Ch.12) explains that the letters on the Tablet enumerating the mitzvot bein adam la’chaveiro were enlarged to make up for the remaining space.

The lesson behind such a phenomenon is especially important. Although one’s level of Judaism is often gauged by one’s commitment to mitzvot bein adam la’Makom, it is a mistake to believe that it stops there. One would be sorely remiss were he to only care about his relationship with Hashem and overlook how he treats his fellows Jews. To emphasize this ever-important idea, the letters of the mitzvot discussing interpersonal relationships were significantly larger. This was done to underscore their equal importance and stress that we are never to lose focus of these commandments which Hillel termed, “The foundation of the entire Torah.” They are to occupy the center of our attention and be diligently observed. The other Tablet depicting the rest of the Torah – i.e. mitzvot bein adam la’Makom – is in this respect an elucidated commentary of its counterpart tablet portraying the mitvzot bein adam la’chaveiro.

This is most poignantly brought to light when considering Moshe Rabbeinu’s reaction to the Jewish people worshipping the Golden Calf. As Moshe descended Har Sinai carrying the two Luchot and observed the tragic sin occurring amid the Jewish camp, he threw down both Luchot. Why did Moshe break the Tablet representing the mitzvot between man and his fellow? The idol worship committed by Klal Yisrael was only a rebellion and transgression against G-d. Why not keep the second Tablet upon which the mitzvot between man and his fellow are listed?

Rav Yisrael Salanter explains that such a thought process in fact crossed Moshe Rabbeinu’s mind. As reflected in the Torah’s defective spelling of the word Luchot in the context of the Golden Calf, Moshe considered only smashing one of the Luchot. But as quickly as this thought came it went. Moshe broke both sets of Luchot because they can only exist as a pair. Similar to the two required signs for a kosher species, a Jew must as well identify with his “two signs.” His relationship with Hashem and fellow Jews must complement each other and coalesce.

The life of a Jew is an equal balance between him and G-d and him and the rest of Klal Yisrael. However, the way to arrive at such an equilibrium and fulfill the Torah in its entirety is to begin using Hillel’s instructions. We are to unconditionally love our fellow Jews and care for them as our brothers and sisters. And when we do so, we can look forward to earning that pristine title of a “Kosher Jew” we all yearn for.

Rebbetzin Ivy Kalazan
A Life Lesson

והייתם קדשים

And you shall be holy (Vayikra 11:44)

When my family lived in Israel, my husband would often lecture at Arachim outreach seminars. Once, we hosted a young man learning in Kollel who was known for his painstaking diligence. He was tremendously consistent and punctual in his attendance in the yeshiva and never wasted a moment. When asked where he learned such qualities of persistence and commitment, he related the following episode:

Before I became religious, my friends and I were a bit unruly and liked to have a good time. When we finally heard that they were introducing a branch of McDonalds in Israel where non-kosher meat and in particular their legendary cheeseburgers would be sold, we became quite excited. Considering that most of the meat in Israel is kosher and requires rabbinic certification, when McDonalds opened, we all viewed this situation as a momentous occasion.

The only problem was that we lived two hours away from where this branch of McDonalds opened. But that did not deter us. One Sunday afternoon, my friends and I drove two hours just to experience a McDonalds’ cheeseburger.

A number of years later, we attended an Arachim seminar. Being exposed to Torah and Judaism, after some time, we were genuinely convinced of its truth and started becoming religious and keeping mitzvot. The only setback I faced was getting to a yeshiva to be able to learn. I wasn’t living near any Jewish community at the time and the closest yeshiva around was an hour away. I hummed and hawed just thinking about how every day I would have to commute a couple of hours, but then it hit me. When I wanted to have a cheeseburger, I drove two hours to experience the thrill; now that I want to go to yeshiva and learn, will I not drive two hours to do so?

“Now you understand,” he concluded, “why I am so assiduous in my learning schedule. That one trip to McDonalds taught me this ever-important lesson I will forever remember.”

While this young man may have believed that he was merely indulging in a cheeseburger, he was in fact setting the foreground for future inspiration that would forever shape his life. Life is replete with opportunities to elevate the mundane and build upon past mistakes. We are meant to take those moments and energies which are often filled with negativity and emptiness and infuse them with holiness and spiritual meaning. And indeed, the biggest impetus for attaining such greatness is oftentimes rooted in those experiences we never thought we would look back on.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Fischel Schachter

As it was heavily raining one day and I only had an umbrella that was half-collapsing I came across my friend on the street. He was carrying a wide and sturdy umbrella that put mine to shame. Then the wind began to blow and made my situation even worse by turning my umbrella inside out. Struggling to hold my umbrella down, I was losing the battle. But then I realized that if turn around and face the wind, it will actually push the umbrella back into shape. And indeed that was what happened. It then hit me that the same is true in life. Instead of trying to change the winds blowing in our lives, we would be wiser to position ourselves in such a way that they actually help us.

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