Thursday, April 29, 2010

223 - Emor

Toward the end of this week's parsha the Torah states, "On the pure menorah he should arrange lamps before Hashem 'tamid' (continually)" (Vayikra 24, 4). Rashi explains that "tamid" does not mean that the menorah must be lit at all times. Rather, it means that Aharon must light the menorah every single night. The Ramban adds that we are to deduce from the word "tamid" which connotes something constant, that the menorah is to be lit even on Shabbos and even when in a state of impurity.

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) comments that we can glean from this pasuk the appropriate definition of a "masmid." A masmid is not necessarily one who learns Torah day and night. Rather, it is he who sets definite times for Torah study. It is not the quantity of the Torah study, but the consistency of the Torah study. It is he who sets a concrete time for his learning: day in and day out - even on Shabbos and even when things get tough - who can rightfully be termed a masmid.

Nevertheless, says Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 322), there are situations that arise where even one who has set concrete times for his Torah, tefillah, or avodas Hashem, must rearrange his schedule to fit the occasion. For example, Chazal tell us that one must interrupt his study of Torah to fulfill a mitzvah that cannot be performed by anyone else. This rule applies even when the mitzvah arises during the specific time that one has allotted for learning. Nevertheless, one should take a minute or so to prepare himself in a way that will allow him to attend to this interruption in the most time-efficient manner possible, thereby enabling him to return to his schedule of avodas Hashem.

If we have a set time for work, and a set time for meals, all the more so we should have concrete times for avodas Hashem. Moreover, if we are hesitant to let anything get in the way of those times that we set for work and meals, then certainly we should not let anything get in the way of the times we have set (or will set) for avodas Hashem.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

222 - Achrei Mos/Kedoshim

In this week's parsha we read, "Do not hate your brother in your heart; rebuke your friend and do not bear a sin 'upon him'" (Vayikra 19, 17). Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash), based on the Ramban, offers two explanations of this pasuk, rooted in the two causes for hatred between man and his fellow man.

The first possibility of hatred is caused when one observes another person transgressing a sin. Although this would seem to be a valid reason for hatred, nevertheless, the Torah tells us that the observer may not hate the transgressor; rather, he must rebuke him for his misdeed. Moreover, if he fails to rebuke him, the Torah considers it as if the observer himself committed the transgression, and he will be punished accordingly. In this vein, the pasuk is to be explained, "Even if you see your friend sin, you should not hate him. Rather, you should rebuke him, for if you don't, you will bear the sin!"

The second possibility for hatred is caused when one feels hurt by another's actions. It doesn't make a difference if he was hurt physically, emotionally or monetarily; the Torah tells him that he should not bottle up the resentment inside himself. Rather, he must discuss with the offender the motive for those actions, thereby giving him the opportunity to explain or excuse himself. However, if he hides the hatred inside his heart, he is placing a sin upon the offender because he may not know the gravity of his actions, or miss out on an opportunity to ask for forgiveness. According to this explanation, the pasuk means, "If you were hurt by another, do not keep your hatred inside your heart. Rather, speak to him and discuss the reason behind his actions so that the transgressor does not end up with a sin."

Rav Wolbe adds that often it is much easier to just go on hating someone, even for years on end, than to speak to him directly and ask him why he acted in the way he did. It is very hard for the one who feels slighted to initiate a conversation that will give the offender the ability to excuse himself, thereby obviating any reason for hatred. Yet the Torah commands us not to let the hatred fester inside our hearts. Rather, we should speak up and discuss it so that we can ultimately fulfill the obligation stated in the following pasuk, "You shall love your fellow like yourself."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

221 - Tazria/Metzora

We know that Bnei Yisroel were on a low spiritual level after the many years of bondage in Mitzrayim, and Hashem had to bestow upon them an abundance of holiness in order for them to reach a level where they would be eligible to be redeemed. Through this act of benevolence, Bnei Yisroel climbed many rungs on the spiritual ladder in an extremely brief amount of time. They reached the pinnacle in their spiritual ascent on the night before they were released from bondage.

Nevertheless, the Ramchal tells us that in the forty nine days between Yetzias Mitzrayim and Shavuos, Bnei Yisroel extracted themselves from the forty ninth level of impurity to which they had sunk, and ascended to the forty ninth level of holiness. Rav Wolbe asks that if they had reached the spiritual zenith when they left Mitzrayim, why did they have to work for seven weeks to climb to a plateau on which they already stood. The answer is that the tremendous level of greatness experienced at Yetzias Mitzrayim disappeared the following day, and they needed to reestablish that level, but this time through their own efforts. Hashem dispenses a flash of inspiration, and then we are expected to revive that sensation through our avodas Hashem.

In a similar vein, Chazal tell us that at the time of Creation the light was so great that Adam could see from one side of the world to the other. However, because of the wicked that would not be worthy of this light, Hashem "hid" it and set it aside for the righteous. If Hashem knew that He would hide it, why did He create it in the first place? Additionally, we know that a child in the womb experiences this otherworldly light, and is taught the entire Torah, only to forget it all when he is born. Again we must ask, if a child forgets everything when he is born, what is the purpose of placing him in a spiritual utopia in his mother's womb? Both these questions can be answered with the above concept. Hashem gives a flash of inspiration which leaves an indelible impression, thereby enabling us to achieve the goal toward which we must strive.

This is an idea which rings true in each of our lives. Many people feel a surge of inspiration - be it after the Seder night or any other inspiring event. However, those feelings wane after a few days and they might feel that they are back to square one. In reality, what happened is that Hashem bestowed upon them a spiritual revelation, and then retracted it to allow them to work their way up to that level on their own accord. When the flash of inspiration disappears, there is no reason to feel despondent; rather, it should be the impetus for our avodah and a means of becoming closer to Hashem.