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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Pinchas

Parshat Pinchas

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"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Pinchas 24th of Tammuz, 5776 | July 30, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbi Eytan Feiner The


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Pinchas
24th of Tammuz, 5776 | July 30, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Eytan Feiner
The Smell of Shabbat

וביום השבת

And on the day of Shabbat… (Bamidbar 28:9)

As a boy eagerly approached his bar mitzvah weekend, his family arranged for the davening and meal to take place in a hotel over Shabbat, followed by a celebration after Shabbat. Of course the family invited their Rabbi, Rav Simcha Wasserman and his Rebbetzin to join them for the bar mitzvah. Not feeling too well, however, Rav Simcha declined and apologized for being unable to attend. Nevertheless, he wished the family much nachat and offered his warmest blessings upon the boy’s upcoming milestone.

Rav Simcha, though, had one request to make. “Please make sure there is cholent in the hotel for Shabbat. You cannot have a Shabbat without cholent!” But the parents of the bar mitzvah boy tried to politely excuse themselves. “With all due respect, we are spending Shabbat in a hotel and do not want to get involved in any halachic dilemmas that accompany making hot food on Shabbat. We already worked it out with the caterer that we will be serving cold food. Besides, the big celebration will be taking place later that night after Shabbat. Then we will provide hot culinary delights. For Shabbat, though, we will keep it plain and simple. There will be challah, fish, chicken and other dishes. There will be plenty to eat, except for cholent.”

“Please,” persisted Rav Simcha, “I just want to ask this one favor. I have a tradition that you need to have hot food for Shabbat. You must make sure there is cholent.” Wishing to listen to the directions of their Rav, the family made sure that cholent would be served. Contacting the caterer and making sure hot plates would be set up, cholent was prepared and added to the menu.

While the parents of the bar mitzvah boy had become religious later in life, a large number of their family still remained irreligious. Not wishing for their relatives to drive to the bar mitzvah on Shabbat, they announced that everyone was welcome to attend the celebration that would be taking place after Shabbat. If anyone however wished to participate in the bar mitzvah on Shabbat itself, they were more than welcome to come Friday afternoon and join the family in the festivities.

Notwithstanding the parents’ request, an elderly aunt and uncle who lived near the hotel did not wish to deviate from their normal Friday night schedule. And so, after spending Friday night at home, they drove to Shul on Shabbat and entered the hotel hall as everyone else filed in.

As they stepped inside, the fragrant aroma of the delicious cholent wafted through the air. Seeing where their family was situated, the aunt and uncle began making their way over to the table. But then, all of a sudden, the aunt stopped in her tracks. Turning to her husband trembling, she said, “We have to go home.” Not sure what had occurred, the uncle worried if everything was alright. “I’ll tell you in the car,” she said.

Heading back to the car, the husband looked at his wife who was well into her seventies for an explanation. “I have never seen you like this in all the years we have been married. What happened all of a sudden?” Turning back to her husband, the wife explained:

“My last memory as a six-year-old child in the Holocaust was German soldiers taking me away on a Shabbat afternoon. I remember enjoying the aroma of the hot cholent in our house though. Cholent always represented Shabbat to me. Ever since that incident which took place when I was a child, my last fond memory and attachment to Judaism has been the hot cholent I enjoyed so much.

“I haven’t smelled cholent in close to seventy years. But when I walked into the hotel just now and smelled cholent for the first time in years, right away, my memory took me back to my youth. I could almost taste that Shabbat afternoon cholent. Its smell woke me up and made me question what I am doing with my life. During those years of childhood, I felt a connection to G-d, understood the beauty of Judaism and knew what a true Shabbat meant. How could I now be missing that?”

Henceforth, this woman changed her life. From then on, she decided she would keep Shabbat for the rest of her life. And where did this tremendous journey back to her Jewish roots begin? With Rav Simcha Wasserman who made sure that his student would serve cholent on Shabbat.

The Gemara (Berachot 53b) tells us that the sense of smell is unique in that a person’s neshama derives benefit from it. That which our pristine spiritual soul gains pleasure from is the sensation of smell. It is not coincidental that studies have been done substantiating that more than sounds and sights, what evokes memories of old is a scent. The memory of a smell experienced during one’s youth can last for decades. Oliver Sacks writes of an eighty-year-old epileptic woman who would break out in Italian opera and recall aromas she smelled as a six-year-old girl in her mother’s kitchen. Smells stay with a person forever.

There is a unique spiritual and physical smell to Shabbat Kodesh. The Bnei Yissaschar (Maamarei Chodesh Adar 4:1, Mar Cheshvan Maamar 2:1) writes how Adam and Chava defiled and desecrated four of their five senses when they consumed the forbidden fruit in Gan Eden. They saw the Tree of Knowledge, listened to the snake’s enticement, held the fruit and tasted it. The one sense which did not derive any prohibited benefit from the Etz Ha’daat was that of smell. In consequence, the only way to reconnect oneself to Gan Eden is through the medium of reyach, smell.

Furthermore, Shabbat, which the Gemara (Berachot 57b) compares to the blissful state of delight enjoyed in the World to Come, gives us a sense of what Gan Eden was like and what the World to Come will be like. But there is more to Shabbat than its special ethereal smell; it is a day which is intrinsically bound to Torah. Shabbat must take us back to the Torah, back to the Etz Chaim, the Tree of Life which was situated in Gan Eden. As Shlomo Hamelech writes, Torah is “עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה” – “A Tree of Life for all those who hold onto it” (Mishlei 3:18).

Moreover, Shabbat is a time when we can elevate ourselves through the singing of zemirot (hymns). Rav Yisroel of Shklov writes in the name of his Rebbe, the Vilna Gaon, “Moshe Rabbeinu was taught the wisdom of music at Har Sinai, which when used properly can be mechayeh meitim, resurrect the dead” (intro. to Sefer Pe’at HaShulchan). Considering this, it is not surprising that many people wake up in the morning to the sound of music as they leave a state of unconscious slumber and experience a small degree of techiyat hameitim, life resurrection.

Shabbat, the day in which the aromas of Gan Eden and Olam Haba permeate our homes, is a most precious day. Each moment presents us with the opportunity to stir our neshamot with inspiring words of Torah and song, and of course, to bask in the delicious scent and taste of cholent. It indeed is a glorious day.

Rabbi Eliezer Krohn
Partners in Heaven, Partners on Earth

When my twin sons were in 3rd grade at the Yeshiva K’tana of Passaic, one of them was classmates with a boy who had unfortunately lost his father. My son went on to befriend the boy and became close to him.

One day, this boy who was about eight years old went over to his Rebbe with a question. The Rebbe himself had lost his father at a very young age, similar to the boy. “Rebbe,” asked the young boy, “do you know where my father is now?” After being presented with this unusual, straightforward question, the Rebbe thought for a moment and said, “I know exactly where your father is right now. He is learning together with my father.” And then the Rebbe continued, “And if my father is learning together with your father, then you and I also have to learn together. Come, let’s study with one another just like our fathers.”

Such is the nature of a true Rebbe. He not only sees a need, but addresses it. He not only sympathizes with his students, but empathizes with them. True to our Sages’ teaching (Yalkut Shimoni, Va’etchanan 841), “And you shall teach your children – this refers to your students,” a student is no less than an actual son or daughter to us. We are to love them like our children and give them time like our children. When we do so, we can rest assured that our Father in Heaven will smile down up us – His own children – and treat us with the same love and care we express for others.

Rabbi Avi Wiesenfeld
Dancing Mountains

ויאמר ד' אל משה קח לך את יהושע בן נון איש אשר רוח בו

And Hashem said to Moshe, “Take to yourself Yehoshua son of Nun, a man in whom there is spirit… (Bamidbar 27:18)

Chazal (Pesachim 118a) explain the verse recited during Hallel, “The mountains danced like rams, the hills like sheep” (Tehillim 114:4), to be a reference to the Giving of the Torah. What stands out is the fact that although the mountains and hills figuratively danced, only one mountain – Har Sinai – was chosen to be the site of Mattan Torah. Nothing actually happened to all the other mountains. Why then does their rejoicing play any role in the overall picture of Mattan Torah?

I once heard from Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu a beautiful insight into this Chazal.

The Gemara (Berachot 55a) says that Hashem only gives wisdom to the wise-hearted.

There are two difficulties with this statement. Firstly, what need is there for one who is already wise to be given wisdom? Isn’t it superfluous? Moreover, the mind and the heart are two distinct organs. What does being wise of heart have to do with intellectual wisdom?

As the Torah relates in our Parasha, when Moshe Rabbeinu looked for a successor to lead the Jewish people after his demise, Hashem instructed him to appoint Yehoshua. Why? Because he was someone “Asher ruach bo” – “In whom there is spirit” (Bamidbar 27:18). What does this mean and why is it a determining ingredient in a leader?

Let me tell you a story.

When R’ Eizel Charif, the 19th Century Rav of Slonim, was looking for a prospective shidduch for his daughter, he sought to find the top yeshiva bachur. Traveling to the city of Volozhin, he approached the Rosh Yeshiva and said, “I am looking for a husband for my daughter. With the Rosh Yeshiva’s permission, I would like to pose a complex Talmudic question to the students and see who will come up with the correct answer. Whoever that boy is will marry my daughter.” Agreeing to R’ Eizel’s idea, the question was posed before the students in the Beit Midrash.

Eager to come up with an answer, the students immediately took to resolving the query. Throngs of boys lined up outside R’ Eizel’s door and discussed the matter with him. But no one provided the correct answer. After some time, R’ Eizel felt it was time to move on to the next town and seek a boy there.

Packing his bags and loading them onto the carriage, he began to drive away. But then, all of a sudden, a boy began running after him. “Rebbe!” the boy yelled, “wait!” Thinking to himself that one boy had finally figured out the answer, the Rebbe waited for the boy to reach him. “So,” said R’ Eizel, “what is the answer?” “Rebbe,” replied the boy, “I don’t know what the answer is. That is precisely why I came here. Can you tell me?”

Without hesitation, R’ Eizel said, “This is the boy who is going to marry my daughter.”

The goal of learning Torah is not necessarily to come up with the answer, but to want the answer. It is about possessing the ambition and drive to learn Torah. Someone who is a “chacham lev,” wise-hearted, is not someone who necessarily knows Torah, but someone who wants to know Torah. That is the key to greatness.

In this vein, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt”l notes that Yehoshua was not the biggest Torah scholar among the Jewish people that would warrant him becoming the next leader. In fact, when the Torah delineates the names of the Spies who scouted out the Land of Israel, Yehoshua is listed fifth. Considering, as the Ramban writes, that the enumerated order of the Spies is according to their relative wisdom, it is clear that Yehoshua was not the wisest. But he was chosen for a different reason: “Lo yamush mitoch ha’ohel” – “He did not depart from the tent of Moshe” (Shemot 33:11). Yehoshua was someone who spent his every moment in the shadow of Moshe Rabbeinu, ready and eager to learn. He may not have been the biggest scholar, but he was the biggest seeker. And that is what counts most.

With this, we can answer our original question. What allusion to Mattan Torah lies within this Pasuk, “The mountains danced like rams, the hills like sheep”? Those mountains were not the conduits to transmit the Torah?

The answer is that the key to Torah is yearning and desiring it. The mountains and hills eagerly desired to have the Torah be given upon them, and even danced in fervent hope that they would be the chosen site to do so. What matters most when it comes to Torah is the concerted effort and thirst to probe and understand. That is the ultimate goal. He who deeply longs to understand Torah is the most fitting recipient of Torah; not necessarily the one who knows the most or is the smartest. That is what Hashem holds most dearly and looks for in His devoted children.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz

As I was once walking to Shul with my little six-year-old son, there fell a moment of silence. It was just a couple minutes later, though, that he looked up at me and said, “You know, Abba, I am not sure if I am going to marry Debbie or Frieda.” “Okay,” I softly yet hesitantly muttered. “But you know, Abba, it’s bothering me that whichever one I marry, the other one is going to be so upset.” A few minutes later, we reached the top step near the Shul, whereupon my son said, “Abba, you know what I just realized? Whichever one I marry, all the other girls are going to be so upset!” Confident young man, right? For the first time in my son’s little life, he realized that you cannot have everything you would like. Educating our children of this very important life principle will serve them well not only as young children, but most certainly as bright maturing adults.

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