Thursday, October 18, 2012

347 - Bereishis

Before beginning his shiurim on Chumash, Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash pg. 2) felt it imperative to preface the series of shiurim with the following introduction:

When we learn Tanach we must bear in mind that we are literally light-years away from the spiritual level of the people described therein. For example, we read how Yeshaya castigates his generation with extremely harsh accusations. "Woe, a sinful nation, a people laden with sin, evil offspring, destructive children; they have forsaken Hashem, angered the Holy One of Yisrael and turned their back toward Him" (Yeshaya 1, 4).  A superficial reading of this pasuk would lend us to think that his generation was full of corrupt depraved people. However, the very fact that they merited hearing the rebuke of a navi is the greatest testimony to their awesome spiritual level!

One might ask if they really were so great how could it be that they were idol worshippers? The answer is that in truth we cannot understand their behavior since we have no idea what idol worship was all about. The drive was so immensely powerful that King Menashe came to one of the Amoraim in a dream and told him that had he lived in an earlier generation he would have picked up the hems of his clothing to enable him to run even faster in the pursuit of idol worship! The urge was so difficult to overcome, that Chazal felt compelled to daven to Hashem to abolish this desire. Their wish was granted and, hence, we have no clue as to the challenge that the previous generations had to overcome.

In order to understand on what type of spiritual plateau those mentioned in Tanach lived, we must look at them via the numerous generations that divide their era from our era. We can still partially relate to the mussar given by the Chofetz Chaim, but we are totally disconnected from the mussar of Reb Yisroel Salanter who lived a generation earlier. When he rebuked those around him for their apathy toward Elul, he was not referring to the acute indifference toward the Yomim HaNoraim that abounds today. Similarly, Reb Yisroel's generation couldn't match the generation of Reb Chaim Volozhin who also complained about the low spiritual level rampant in his times. The same variance exists between the generations of Rav Chaim Volozhim and The Ramchal. One of the early Rishonim, Rabbeinu Tam, wrote a mussar sefer and explained in his introduction the impetus for his writing a sefer on mussar when there were already other such seforim around. He felt that his generation could not relate to the concepts mentioned in the Chovos Halevovos who lived a number of years earlier. This trend continues through the generations of Geonim, Amoraim, Tanaim and Nevi'im.

This being the case, we have absolutely no ability to comprehend their greatness. When Yeshaya leveled the above mentioned criticism at his generation, he was referring to a subtle laxity in their dveikus to Hashem. If we want to gain an inkling of an understanding into the spiritual situation of those generations, we need merely to remember the feelings we felt after Rosh Hashana. After two days of lengthy and intense davening, didn't a thought creep into our minds when we remembered that the following day we once again would have to get up early for Selichos: "More davening? Isn't it enough already?!" Such a thought borders on forsaking Hashem and ever so slightly resembles the feelings of those who literally lived their lives in such close proximity to Hashem that the slightest deviance from Him would be considered an act of forsaking Hashem.

If the Torah relates the stories of Adam, the Avos, the Shevatim and Bnei Yisroel then even we, with our limited spiritual capacity, are expected to learn and attempt to understand them. Yet, when we read how Adom ate from the eitz hada'as and other similar transgressions, let us bear in mind that the people being discussed were immeasurably greater than we could ever imagine.

346 - Ha'azinu - Sukkos

Moshe begins his address of Ha'azinu with the following words,  "May My Torah drip like the rain" (Devarim 32, 2). Rav Wolbe quotes his Rebbi, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz zt"l, who explains the pasuk's comparison of Torah to rain. Rain merely dampens the soil and creates a properly fertile ground for the seeds planted there. However, the actual growth of the plant stems from inside the seed itself. So too, although the Torah prepares and cultivates a person for spiritual growth, nevertheless, the major portion of the growth must originate from inside the person himself.  
In a similar vein, Rabbeinu Yonah writes (Sha'arei Teshuva Chap. 2, 26) "If a person does not arouse himself, what will mussar help?" Rav Wolbe elaborates (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 415) that it is possible to listen to many mussar discourses and to read through many mussar seforim and gain nearly nothing. A person has to arouse himself by properly digesting what he has heard or read.
We might make a similar observation regarding Sukkos. It is a Yom Tov which has the ability to be one of the most spiritually uplifting times of the year - if we allow it to be. We sit in a makeshift "clouds of glory" surrounded by Hashem's Divine protection, and we rejoice in the recent forgiveness achieved on Yom Kippur. Sukkos and the rest of the Yomim Tovim of Tishrei climax in Simchas Torah, a day specifically designated as a spiritual rendezvous between Hashem and Klal Yisroel. Chazal tell us that Hashem so to speak says, "Your parting is difficult for Me! Please set aside one more day to take leave of me." The opportunity for spiritual growth that Sukkos affords us is immense. However, we must sufficiently arouse ourselves in order to carry its inspiration with us during the coming months.
Take a few minutes, before or during Sukkos, to delve into the beauty of this most remarkable Yom Tov (Sefer Hatoda'ah and Rav Shimshon Pinkus are two great options). Rejoice in the mitzvah of Sukkah, the arba minim, the simchas Beis Ha'shoavah and taste the sweetness of being close to Hashem! 
Chag Kasher V'Sameiach!

345 - Yom Kippur

Reb Yonason Eibshitz zt"l explains that Hashem's acceptance of teshuva is analogous to techias ha'meisim - resurrection of the dead. This is because the Torah refers to a wicked person, even during his lifetime, as if he were dead. Only once he repents, and Hashem accepts his teshuva, can he be considered alive, and if so he has in effect been resurrected.

Rav Wolbe (Ma'amarei Yemei Ratzon pg. 340) writes that with this in mind we can understand an amazing statement of Chazal regarding the immense power of teshuva. Chazal (Yalkut Yechezkel 18) tell us that a question was posed, "What could be done [to rectify] the soul that has sinned?" "Wisdom responded, 'Evil will pursue the sinner.' They asked prophesy and she answered, 'The sinner must die.' They asked the Torah and she replied, 'He should offer a sacrifice and he will be forgiven.' They asked Hashem and He said, 'He should do teshuva and he will be forgiven.'" 

Wisdom understood that one aveirah leads to another aveirah and, therefore, a transgressor creates a whirlpool of sin, and he will forever be pursued by sin. Prophesy recognizes the awesomeness of The Creator and rightfully feels that anyone who has rebelled against Him has forfeited his right to live. In contrast, the Torah acknowledges the ability to rectify the sin. Nevertheless, it seems that the rectification is limited to a sin performed unintentionally since only such a sin can be absolved via a korban. Hashem was the only One able to prescribe teshuva as a remedy for transgressions, thusly implying that teshuva cannot be comprehended even by those most spiritually elevated. 

With Reb Yonason Eibshitz's insight we can begin to understand why no one could fathom the concept of teshuva. Chazal tell us that fifty gates of wisdom were created, but even Moshe Rabbeinu was only able to reach the forty-ninth gate. The fiftieth gate, explains the Gr"a, is the gate which contains the secret of life itself, and since all mortals are destined to die, there is no way humanly possible to access the wisdom of this gate. It follows that if teshuva bears semblance to resurrection and the giving of life, then it also is beyond any comprehension and, therefore, was not entertained as a viable avenue for the rectification of sin.

This also explains one of the tefillos of Yom Kippur. We say, "Until the day of his death You wait for him; if he repents You will accept him." How can the teshuva on one's deathbed be accepted when his entire life was wasted? The answer is that teshuva is life, and it is worthwhile for a person to be in this world for an entire lifetime if he will ultimately reach a moment of clarity on his deathbed and merit tapping into true life! 

However, "Praiseworthy is one who does teshuva earlier on in life" (Avodah Zara 19a). Such a person can live the rest of his years building on the foundation of true life attained through his teshuva. Teshuva is awesome and, as Rabbeinu Yonah writes, any amount of teshuva is accepted. May we be zoche to utilize the amazing opportunity that the Aseres Yemei Teshuva and Yom Kippur afford us, and begin living life in its truest form!        

May we all be zoche to be mikabal ol Malchus Shamayim 
and to a Gmar V'chasima Tova!

343 - Ki Savo

Among the numerous mitzvos mentioned in this week's parsha is the mitzvah of bi'ur and viduy ma'asros. On erev Pesach after the third year of the seven year shmitta cycle, we are commanded to properly allocate any of the third year tithes that might have remained in our possession. The Torah commands us that along with the allocation one must also recite viduy, i.e. a "confession" that he has properly performed all the relevant mitzvos associated with the giving of the tithes. In a similar vein, we find that teshuva, which includes true remorse over one's actions and a serious commitment to refrain from repeating those actions in the future, must also be accompanied by viduy - a verbal confession. What is the purpose of this viduy? Once a person already regrets his transgressions and makes a serious commitment to refrain from such actions in the future, what more does the viduy accomplish?

Rav Wolbe (Ma'amarei Yemei Ratzon pg. 89) cites a Gemara to explain this concept. "Whoever slaughters his yetzer hara and recites viduy, is considered by the Torah as if he has honored Hashem both in this world and the next world" (Sanhedrin 43b). Likewise, when Yehoshua attempted to convince Achan to confess his sin of taking from the consecrated booty, he told him, "My child, please give honor to Hashem the G-d of Yisrael and confess to Him." How does one honor Hashem with a verbal confession? 

The answer is as follows. Every sin, more than it causes Hashem to distance Himself from the transgressor, causes the transgressor to distance himself from Hashem. When one commits an aveirah, he imagines or believes that Hashem doesn't see him perpetrating the misdeed, almost as if he has hidden himself from his Creator. The way to rectify such behavior is with the recitation of the viduy. We declare, "For the sin that we have sinned before You etc." We acknowledge that not only were You, Hashem, watching us as we sinned, moreover, at that very time You actually continued to bestow upon us the physical capacity which was used to commit the offense. One who acknowledges this truth and removes the partition that separates him from his Creator, has in truth honored Hashem.

Prior to the viduy we beseech Hashem, "Please accept our prayers and do not ignore our entreaties." In other words, we no longer want to pretend that Hashem ignores our actions; we are acknowledging His surveillance. With this in mind, our recitation of the viduy should take on a whole new dimension. It should be recited with a feeling of connection to Hashem similar to the way one recites Shema or the first bracha in Shmoneh Esrei. In essence we are declaring that at all times Hashem is with us, and we are expressing our true desire to refrain from pretending that He fails to take notice of our deeds. Such a viduy will certainly be accepted by Hashem. This is a perception we should bear in mind before we begin Selichos. 

342 - Ki Seitzei

In this week's parsha the Torah juxtaposes the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird before taking her offspring and the mitzvah to erect a fence on one's roof upon building a new house. Rashi explains that if one performs the mitzvah of shiluach hakein he will merit building a house and performing the mitzvah of erecting a fence, because "one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah" (Avos 4, 2). Rashi continues that it is for this very reason that the Torah places the prohibitions of planting a field with kelayim (a forbidden mixture of seeds) and the prohibition of wearing clothing that contain shatnez (a mixture of wool and linen), directly after the above mentioned mitzvos. Performance of the original mitzvos will lead to the acquisition of a field, a vineyard and clothing, and to the performance of the related mitzvos.

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) points out that we generally understand that the Mishna, "One mitzvah leads to another mitzvah" is limited to the actual performance of the mitzvah: The performance of one mitzvah will give me Heavenly assistance to perform another mitzvah. If I say bircas hamazon I will be able to learn in the morning and thereafter conduct my business honestly and daven mincha with a minyan, etc. However, from Rashi it is clear, that additionally, through the performance of one mitzvah Hashem creates and allocates the resources needed to enable the performance of mitzvos that hitherto had been entirely out of the person's ballpark. If he does shiluach hakein Hashem will give him the ability to build a house enabling him to perform the mitzvah of building a fence. Truly amazing!

There is yet another aspect of this adage of Chazal. Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 40) quotes Rav Dessler who explains that every person has a "nekudas habechira." In other words, there are many mitzvos and good deeds that a person does without choosing at all; rather, they are dictated by the way he was brought up or his intrinsic nature. Likewise, there are many aveiros that he does without even realizing that they are wrong; it is simply the way he was educated. His nekudas habechira (point of choice based on his free will) is merely at one specific location: where what he knows to be true clashes with what he imagines is true (but deep down really knows it's not). 

However, one's nekudas habechira is not stagnant. "One mitzvah leads to another mitzvah" is in effect a conditioning agent whereby a person becomes acclimated to the performance of a mitzvah to the point that the yetzer hara no longer tries to persuade him to disregard that mitzvah because it has ceased to be a challenge to overcome the temptation. He can now move up to the next rung on the spiritual ladder and conquer even bigger and better territories as he advances in his avodas Hashem.

If a mitzvah presents itself, grab the opportunity. Besides the infinite reward of that specific mitzvah, it also has the ability to improve one's spiritual and physical standing. Moreover, in the month of Elul each mitzvah is precious and might be the one to tip the scales! 

341 - Shoftim

In the Haftora of this week's parsha, we read, "ooree ooree livshe oozeich Tzion" - Awaken, Awaken, Don Your strength Tzion. However, the Targum translates the pasuk slightly differently, "Reveal, Reveal, Don your strength Tzion." Rav Wolbe explains (Ma'amarei Yemei Ratzon pg. 77) that sometimes people experience giluy (clarity), while at other times they experience hester (confusion). In certain situations the confusion can be so great that one isn't even aware of the strengths that are found inside himself until he is aroused and awakened to them by someone else. Hence, the Targum explains that the "awakening" mentioned in the pasuk, in reality is a mere revelation of the strengths within, which, until then, had been unnoticed.

He elaborates that a person is similar to a tree (as stated in this week's parsha, "For a man is like a tree of the field"). The pit of a fruit contains the entire physical design of the tree that it is able to produce: the type of fruit and leaves, the height of the tree and its color. Yet, none of the above is discernable when one looks at the actual pit. It is only after the tree grows that all the features inherent in the pit become revealed. Similarly, every person is jam-packed with amazing qualities and strengths which are meant to become revealed over the course of his lifetime. However, he differs from a tree in that there is no guarantee that all his features will be revealed, and that sometimes it takes an outside source to arouse and reveal his latent strengths. 

With this approach we can understand the Medrash in this week's parsha. The first pasuk in the parsha commands us, "You shall appoint judges and officers for yourself in all your cities." The Medrash states, "This refers to what is written (Mishlei 6, 6), "Lazy one, go to an ant, see its ways and gain wisdom. Though it has no leader, officer or ruler, it prepares its bread in the summer and it hordes its food at harvest time." In other words, Bnei Yisroel's need for judges and officers seems not to be the ideal situation. The ideal situation would be if people were similar to ants and need no outside assistance in arousing their innate qualities and characteristics. 

Therefore, our job is to reveal the many qualities that have thus far been concealed within us and then use them in our avodas Hashem. Moreover, Rav Wolbe would stress that before one begins learning mussar and starts focusing on his negative traits, it is absolutely imperative that he be fully cognizant of his positive qualities. The first step in improving ourselves is acknowledging our awesome potential!

340 - Re'eh

In this week's parsha Moshe mentions the commandment of giving ma'aser - tithes. Rav Wolbe (see Ma'amarei Yemei Ratzon pg. 459) would often quote Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l who declared that just as one should give a tenth of his money to those who are financially less fortunate, so too, he should give a tenth of his time to those who are spiritually less fortunate. Rav Wolbe (ibid.) also quotes numerous sources that delineate the importance of bringing other people closer to the service of Hashem.

Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha'arei Teshuva 3, 158) writes, "Now contemplate the great obligation we have to sanctify Hashem: Since the primary reason that Hashem sanctified us with His Torah and mitzvos and singled us out as His nation is so that we should sanctify Him and fear Him, it is only proper that those who sanctify Him should they themselves be sanctified."

With this Rabbeinu Yonah in mind, we can understand an awesome statement made by the Chovos Halevovos (Sha'ar HaBitachon chap 6.). "One is not worthy of meriting the reward of Olam Haba solely through the performance of good actions. Rather, he becomes worthy before G-d with two additional things after the good deed. The first of which is instructing people toward the service of Hashem and guiding them to do good." Such a statement seems mind boggling! He implies that even if one performed all the mitzvos of the Torah, sans the one stated above, he is not worthy of meriting the reward of the next world! However, according to Rabbeinu Yonah, we can gain an understanding of this idea. The very purpose of all the mitzvos is a mere prelude to sanctifying Hashem's Name in this world. Therefore, he who fails to cause Hashem's Name to be sanctified in front of others, is lacking the most essential aspect of the mitzvos.

Elsewhere (Sha'ar Ahavas Hashem chap. 6), the Chovos Halevovos implies that one who limits his avodas Hashem to his own self perfection will certainly receive reward. Yet, he continues, the reward will not come close to the reward of one who also helps others in their avodas Hashem. He compares these two people to two merchants who bought shoes for ten dollars. The first merchant sold one pair of shoes for a hundred dollars, ten times the original price, netting a total profit of ninety dollars. The second merchant sold the shoes for a mere twenty dollars, but he sold thousands of pairs. Despite the fact that the first merchant netted a much greater profit for the pair of shoes that he sold, nevertheless, the second merchant's earnings were thousands of dollars greater than those of the first merchant. Likewise, although one who spends his entire life focusing on his own spirituality will certainly earn great reward for his self perfection, nevertheless, it cannot begin to compare to the reward merited by one who also helps others grow in their spirituality.

The Rambam writes that the Final Redemption will come only after Bnei Yisroel do teshuva. Let us take an active part in this teshuva process. Our demeanor, both bein adom l'makom and bein adom l'chaveiro, should be such that those who see us think, "I, too, wish to be like that." Moreover, when we have the ability to say a good word to those spiritually less fortunate, and most certainly if we have the opportunity to impart to them some of the beauty and truth of the Torah, we should seize the moment and do it. It's a small action, but it earns infinite reward! 

339 - Eikev

The second portion of Krias Shema is found in this week's parsha: "V'haya im shemoah tishmeu el mitzvosi" - And if you listen, you will listen to My mitzvos. (Devarim 11, 13). Rashi explains the seemingly superfluous wording of the pasuk as follows. "If you listen to the previous commandments, then you will listen to the subsequent commandments. Likewise, the Torah writes, 'If you forget you will forget' implying that if you begin to forget, you will end up forgetting everything as [Chazal] state, 'If you forsake me (the Torah) for one day, I will forsake you for two days.'"

The Yerushalmi brings a parable to convey this idea. When two friends part, and one walks eastward while his friends walks westward in the exact opposite direction, after a day of walking they are in reality a distance of two days apart. Rav Wolbe (Ma'amarei Yemei Ratzon pg. 364) comments that the parable implies that Chazal's words about the Torah forsaking a person are not metaphorical. Rather, if one forsakes the Torah, the Torah will actually distance itself and forsake that person. When he wishes to return to the Torah he will not find it in the place he left it and he will have to toil twice as hard to reconnect to the Torah. 

The same applies to tefillah. Rashi in Meseches Brachos (4b) cites another Yerushalmi which describes one who fails to daven Shemoneh Esrei immediately after reciting the Shema and its blessings. This can be compared to the friend of a king who knocked on the palace door and before receiving a response he turned around and left. When the king opened the door and saw that his friend left, he too, turned around and left. Rather a person should draw Hashem close with praises of Yetzias Mitzrayim and He will come close, and while Hashem is close he should request his needs. If we draw Hashem close He will reciprocate, while if we turn around and distance ourselves, He will conduct Himself in a similar fashion.

The Ramban (Shemos 3, 13) mentioned last week, quotes a Medrash that encapsulates this idea. Hashem told Moshe to relate to Bnei Yisroel that He reciprocates their actions. If they open their hands to give tzedakah, Hashem will open His storehouses and bestow great bounty upon them. In other words we are the determining factor as to our relationship with Hashem. If we distance ourselves from Him He will respond likewise, while if we attempt to come close to Him, He too, as per the exact amount of effort we expended in achieving this goal, will draw Himself close to us.

The summer is a time that allows many people to change the daily schedule maintained during the rest of the year. However, one must take great care not to forsake Torah study or tefillah. One day missed translates into two days of work regaining what was lost. A single day should not pass entirely devoid of tefillah or Torah study, and the harder the effort involved in retaining our relationship with Hashem, the closer Hashem will draw Himself to us!

338 - Va'eschanan

The very first time Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe, He commanded him to tell Bnei Yisroel that he was sent by Hashem to redeem them. "What should I tell them when they ask me for Your Name?" Moshe queried. To which Hashem responded, "I Shall Be As I Shall Be" (Shemos 3, 14).

Rav Wolbe (Ma'amarei Yemei Ratzon pg. 35) cites the Ramban's explanation of this enigmatic dialogue. Moshe was asking for the Name of Hashem that would unequivocally convey to Bnei Yisroel Hashem's existence and providence. Hashem responded that there is absolutely no reason that Bnei Yisroel should inquire as to His Name. The clearest proof of His existence is the fact that "I Shall Be" with them in all their times of suffering; they simply have to call out and I will answer them. There is no need for any other proof.

The reality that whenever Klal Yisroel daven's to Hashem He answers them, is the most obvious proof of the existence of our Creator. Rav Wolbe notes that this idea is found in this week's parsha. "Which great nation has a G-d Who is close to it, as Hashem our G-d whenever we call to Him?" (Devarim 4, 7). Though we might not be on the spiritual level to always have our personal tefillos answered, as did the righteous people of past and present generations, nevertheless, there is an aspect of this truth that we, too, can recognize. The Ibn Ezra explains the above pasuk, "For which great nation has a G-d Who is close to it, Who always answers them regarding any request for wisdom." In other words, Hashem answers any request for help in the spiritual arena (granted that it is reasonable).

It's not enough to simply want to succeed in growing spiritually. Moreover, it isn't enough to even sit down and learn. We have to ask Hashem for help in achieving our goals. It is tried and proven that these tefillos are always answered.

This week, throughout the world, Klal Yisroel celebrated the Siyum HaShas. To many who have never tried, learning Shas is a task that seems daunting. However, if we daven for Siyata D'shmaya, we will certainly be answered and be granted a substantial measure of Divine assistance to finish the next cycle of Shas which begins this week on Erev Shabbos!

337 - Tisha B'Av

Divrei Hesped on Maran Hagaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt"l

Excerpts from Rav Wolbe's hesped on the Chazon Ish (Da'as Shlomo, Zman Matan Toraseinu pg. 440-444). His description is ever so fitting for Rav Elyashiv.
"We have great people living in our midst, but he was different from all of them. Rav Chaim Volozhin established an official Yeshiva; the first of its kind in hundreds of years. Volozhin was the mother of all Yeshivos, and many of those who studied there went on to open their own Yeshivos. Every Yeshiva had its own inimitable style, and its stamp was indelibly imprinted and easily recognizable upon those who studied within each Yeshiva. However, for a person to achieve true greatness and clarity even in the most profound intricacies of Torah, without having attended a Yeshiva, is almost unattainable. Yet, here we have a person who did not attend any Yeshiva. He toiled in Torah lishma for tens of years and turned into a scholar of immense proportions."

"Referring to Elkanah, the Pasuk (Shmuel I 1, 3) states, "And that man rose from his city." The Medrash (Shmuel 1) explains that, "He rose within his house, he rose within his courtyard, he rose within his city, he rose within the entire Jewish Nation; and all his ascensions came from within himself!" He started learning in his own house, with his father, and coupled with his pure heart and holy intentions, he succeeded in attaining all the greatness that he attained.

"If we wish to know what type of person the Torah seeks to create through the performance of its 613 mitzvos, all we have to do is look at him. We say in Shema, "V'Shenantam L'vanecha." The Gemara explains that the words of Torah should be "sharp" in one's mouth to the point that if he would be asked a question he would be able to answer without hesitating. This is how he learned. Every facet of Torah was plumbed and studied with the intention of arriving at the practical application of the topic at hand. Hence, whatever question was posed, he already had the answer on the tip of his tongue.

"Everyone was cognizant of his greatness as was evident by the [hundreds of thousands of] people who attended his funeral; encompassing every stripe of our Nation.

It is exceedingly amazing that our generation, despite the great hester panim, merited this man. Appropriately, he too, acted with utmost simplicity and hester and stayed within the four cubits of halachah his entire life, never leaving his spiritual abode that he created for himself in search of more attention getting actions.

"How fortunate we were, that whenever any difficult question arose we would say, "Let's go to him," and his advice was like the answers given by the U'rim V'Tumim (breastplate worn on the Kohen Gadol's chest). Even those distant from Torah recognized his greatness, for such is the strength of the Torah; it forces one to recognize its greatness and subjugate himself before it.

"It is written in Seforim that a person is like a Bais Hamikdash, and how much more so is this true regarding a righteous person. The Bais Hamikdash was a place where Hashem's Shechina was revealed and exceedingly evident. Whoever would enter came in contact with the Shechina, and whoever would remain there was purified of his flaws and left cleansed from his sins. The same applies to a tzaddik, and this is how we felt when we merited standing in his presence. Who didn't grow from merely standing before him?"

Chazal tell us, that the death of tzaddikim is comparable to the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash. What are we missing in the absence of the Bais Hamikdash? We're missing the palpable connection to Hashem. We're missing the feeling similar to the one sensed when standing in the presence of a spiritual giant, but on a grander scale. We're missing the ability to live our lives with real purpose focused on what is truly important as personified by Rav Elyashiv.

May we merit seeing the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash speedily in our days, and the day when death will cease to exist, Amein.

336 - Matos-Ma'asei

In Parshas Matos we read how Bnei Yisrael waged war against Midyan. Although they wiped out the men, they took the women as captives. When Moshe saw that the women had remained alive, he castigated those in charge. "Did you leave all the women alive? Behold, it was these very women who caused Bnei Yisrael, by the word of Bilam, to betray Hashem" (Devarim 31, 15-16). 

Rashi explains that "the word of Bilam" refers to the scheme he proposed to Balak. Bilam told him that on the physical battlefield he stood no chance since he most certainly would not be victorious in war. Rather, he should aim to conquer Bnei Yisrael on the spiritual battlefield. Since their G-d despises promiscuity, create a situation that will cause Bnei Yisrael to transgress this sin and you will have assured yourself success. What is it about this sin that Hashem despises more than the rest of the aveiros of the Torah? 

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) quotes the Maharal who explains the severity of the three cardinal sins: murder, idol worship and adultery. The mishna in Pirkei Avos says, "The World stands upon three things: Torah, avodah, and gemilus chasadim." The three cardinal sins stand diametrically opposite the three things upon which the world stands. Therefore, one must give up his life before transgressing one of these sins. Specifically, idol worship (avodah zara) is the opposite of avodah, murder is the opposite of gamilus chasadim and adultery is the opposite of Torah. 

The Maharal explains that the essence of Torah is a human being's achievement of his quintessential state. In contrast, one who commits adultery has acted like an animal. As a matter of fact, Chazal tell us that a sotah does not bring a meal offering from wheat, but rather from barley. Since she acted like an animal, her korban should be brought from a grain that is generally used as animal fodder. 

This is why Hashem despises promiscuity. He singled out Bnei Yisrael as His sole nation, and gave them the Torah as a foundation and guide for how to live a life that personifies the greatness of a human being. He who behaves like an animal has eschewed the great level to which the Torah can elevate man.