Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Although both of this week's parshios deal entirely with the Mishkan and its vessels, the Torah prefaces the parshios with Moshe cautioning Bnei Yisroel to guard the Shabbos. Rashi explains that albeit that they were building a Mishkan for Hashem's Shechina, they must take care not to desecrate the Shabbos. Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. II pg.382) enlightens us regarding the uniqueness of this spiritual day.
Shabbos differs from all other mitzvos because it is not merely a commandment, but also a gift. As Chazal (Shabbos 10b) tell us, "Hashem said to Moshe, 'I have a wonderful gift in My treasury called Shabbos; go tell Bnei Yisroel that I wish to give it to them.'" Likewise we find that the bracha recited during Kiddush differs from the brachos recited when performing other mitzvos. Generally we say, "Blessed are You Hashem, Who sanctified us with His mitzvos and commanded us," while on Shabbos we say, "Who sanctified us with His mitzvos and desired us, and His holy Shabbos with love and graciousness He gave us as an inheritance." Shabbos is a state of holiness, and it was given to us not merely as a commandment but as an inheritance.
Rav Wolbe writes that there were people who had the ability to sense when Shabbos began without having to look at the clock. Throughout the week the Alter of Kelm's face was white as a sheet, and on Shabbos his cheeks took on a reddish hue. Similarly, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz's appearance changed on Shabbos to the degree that a student who saw him for the first time earlier in the week and then again on Shabbos, thought that a new Mashgiach had come to the Yeshiva. "Hashem blessed the seventh day and sanctified it" (Bereishis 2, 3) and He turned it into an entity of holiness that can be felt and experienced.
Furthermore, by resting on Shabbos we bear witness to the fact that Hashem created the world. The Torah writes, "For in six days Hashem made the heavens and earth, and He rested on the seventh day" (Shemos 20, 11). The Ramban (on this pasuk) explains that through the Shabbos we remember creation and thereby acknowledge that there is a Creator. Additionally, Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch writes that the reason for the 39 forbidden melochos on Shabbos is to demonstrate that Hashem, Who created the world, is the sole Master, and on this day man has no permission to perform any action that is a form of creation.
Shabbos is a perceptible kedusha; a guest that we can welcome, as we say in Lecha Dodi, "Come O bride, come O bride the Shabbos queen." Let us take a few minutes on Shabbos to think about this wonderful G-d given present. It is a day that reminds us of creation, The Creator, and the fact that it is He Who is the sole Master of the world in its entirety. These thoughts might enable us to feel, to some degree, the uniqueness of this wonderful day that arrives each and every week.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
The Mesilas Yesharim writes that man was created to have pleasure. Not just any pleasure, rather "to delight in Hashem and have pleasure from the radiance of His Shechina." Moreover, Chazal tell us that in the World to Come there is no eating or drinking; the righteous sit with crowns on their heads and they derive pleasure from the radiance of the Shechina. Pleasure is what dominates the timeline from one's birth until all of eternity.
Additionally Rav Wolbe writes (Da'as Shlomo Geulah pg. 207) that pleasure is the determining factor behind all of our actions. The question is only what gives a person pleasure. "Tell me what you enjoy and I will tell you who you are!" Determining what gives a person pleasure, is the litmus test for determining his essence. Even if most of one's pleasures revolve around physical gratification, does he also, from time to time, obtain enjoyment in the spiritual arena? Does he delight in performing a kindness for another, from connecting to Hashem through prayer, from the profundity of Chazal or an ingenious Torah thought? This is a question everyone should ask himself. Indeed, this is one of the lessons that we can glean from the story of Purim.
Chazal tell us that the three days of fasting that Esther instituted, had another purpose besides enabling the Jews to pray with more feeling. The fast was meant to counteract the physical pleasures they enjoyed when they participated in Achashveirosh's party. As the Gemara states, the decree to kill the Jews came in wake of their participating in that party. However, we must ask, "If all the food was kosher and no one was forced to drink anything, what could possibly be so terrible in partaking of the festivities, that as a result, all of Shushan's Jew's were slated for annihilation?" The answer is that instead of focusing their sense of pleasure toward the spiritual realm and thereby gaining eternity, they directed their pleasure toward the physical. They immersed themselves in a hedonistic party that was focused entirely on entrenching the body in pleasure. Only after they fasted and put the physical pleasures in the right perspective, did they merit salvation from their enemies.
Rav Wolbe related that he remembered a G-d fearing learned man in Germany who stated that as long as he has Wagner's music, he can't possibly feel dejected. How could it be that such a Torah scholarly man found his non physical pleasures outside the realm of Torah?
We read in the Megillah (8, 15), "And the Jews had light, happiness, joy and honor." Chazal tell us that this refers to the light of Torah the happiness of Yom Tov, the joy of bris milah and the honor of tefillin. The Jews came to a new perception of pleasure, and they acknowledged that true light, happiness, joy and honor are obtained through the Torah and mitzvos.
Tuesday Parashas Ki Sisa, 5737