Wednesday, June 8, 2016

530 - Shavuos

Each morning in the bircas haTorah we ask Hashem, "Please make the words of Torah sweet in our mouths." One would think that it would be more accurate to petition Hashem to give us the ability to understand the Torah or to gain greater clarity into the profoundness of the Torah. Why is it that the emphasis is placed on the pleasure that we wish to experience when learning Torah?

Rav Wolbe (Da'as Shlomo Geulah p. 207) explains that the word "v'haarev (make sweet)" shares the same root as the word l'areiv which means "to mix." When a person partakes of something pleasurable, it blends into his very essence thereby becoming part of his physical or spiritual makeup. We daven to Hashem that we should find the study of Torah sweet and pleasurable so that all Torah learned should mix into the very fiber of our bodies and souls.

One who experiences the pleasure of Torah will undoubtedly achieve the levels mentioned at the end of this bracha, "May we... know Your Name and study Torah for its sake." Since he feels the pleasure involved with learning Torah he will seek to study its words without any ulterior motives, simply for the sake of learning Torah and getting to know He Who gave us the Torah. Additionally, the enjoyment will in turn endow us with a large dose of love for Hashem Who gave us this most pleasurable present.

It has been said that human beings are pleasure seekers from day one. Even the movements of a little baby can be attributed to the desire to feel pleasure. Not only that, but the actions of adults, even those which are performed with a heavy heart and amid much difficulty, can also be traced back to some sort of pleasure that they seek to attain. The question is only where a person looks for pleasure: Does he search for it in our materialistic world, or does he turn to spirituality to fulfill this desire?

We are all looking for happiness, and feelings of contentment and satisfaction. Physical and material pleasures might make us feel good, but they generally do not bring lasting happiness and satisfaction. If we are looking to live a truly pleasurable life, then we should set our focus on the Torah. One's daily daf yomi or learning session should not merely be a way of assuaging his conscience which tells him to learn something each day. If given proper priority it can be the most enjoyable part of the day and a way of literally fusing your body with the Torah.

Shavuos is the day that we receive the Torah anew each year. It is worthwhile to put in a heartfelt prayer that the Torah we learn should be sweet and pleasurable. This is an endeavor which has the ability to change us and every single day of our lives for the better!

Good Yom Tov!

529 - Bamidbar

This week's parsha delineates the various responsibilities of the Levi'im. "And the assignment of Elazar ben Aharon HaKohein is the oil of illumination, the spices of the incense, the daily flour offering and the anointment oil" (Bamidbar 4, 16). Rashi cites the Gemara Yerushalmi which explains that Elazar was not merely charged with overseeing that the above items were transferred from place to place; he actually carried all of them himself!

The Ramban (ibid.) calculates the enormous load that Elazar carried. The illumination oil for an entire year amounted to one hundred eighty-three lug (a lug is approximately ½ liter), and the spices for the incense weighed 365 maneh (a maneh is approximately ½ kilo). Rav Wolbe figured that altogether he probably carried more than 1000 kilo! He was charged with this physical assignment in addition to the other jobs that were delegated to him. These jobs included coordinating and supervising the transportation of the vessels of themishkan carried by the bnei Kehos, which entailed assigning each and every Levi their individual task. The amount of responsibilities Heavenly assigned to a person is in direct proportion to his greatness. The greater the person is the greater the load he is given.

How was Elazar able to accomplish all of this? The answer, says Rav Wolbe, can be found in the above Ramban. He concludes, "And those whose hope is in Hashem will have renewed strength" (Yeshaya 40, 31). It might be heavy and difficult, but he must bear the burden of responsibility with the knowledge that Hashem delegated it specifically to him. This will give him the strength to endure and succeed.

Rav Wolbe continues that this is something that we must constantly bear in mind. One who is a Rav, a Rebbi, a Gabbai or a teacher might sometimes get overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility he has been given. We might add that in truth every single Yid has numerous responsibilities toward Klal Yisrael. These might include raising a Torah true family, helping out in the shul, donating his time, money or other resources to benefit the Klal or learning with those less knowledgeable than us. Recognizing that Hashem specifically chose us for these tasks, not only prevents us from "throwing in the towel," it infuses us with vigor and an intense desire to succeed!

528 - Bechukosai

At the end of the tochacha, Hashem guarantees us, "I will remember My covenant with Yaakov and also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also my covenant with Avrahom will I remember" (Vayikra 26:42). Rashi points out that regarding the covenants of Avrahom and Yaakov Hashem states that He will remember them, while the word "remember" is not mentioned in conjunction with the covenant of Yitzchak.

Rashi cites Chazal who explain that one only needs to use their memory to remember something which he does not presently see in front of him. Accordingly, Hashem does not need to recall and remember the covenant He created with Yitzchak, since He sees Yitzchak's ashes [from the Akeidah] piled up on themizbeiach in front of Him.

What does this mean, asks Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash Parshas Vayeira 22:14)? We all know that Yitzchak was not actually sacrificed and burnt on themizbeiach, and obviously no ashes were created. He answers that the Navi states, "And a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear Hashem and who give thought to His Name" (Malachi3:16). Chazal ask (Kiddushin 40a) to whom is the pasuk referring when it mentions those who give thought to Hashem's Name? They answer that it refers to those who had a true desire to perform a mitzvah but circumstances that were out of their control prevented them from actually fulfilling their intention. Hashem considers their desire as if the mitzvah was performed, and thus the mitzvah is written down in the book of remembrance before Him.

Indeed, Yitzchak was not actually burnt on the altar. Nevertheless, the intense and true desire that he had to perform the mitzvah was accredited to his account, exactly as if it had come to fruition. The most essential aspect of the mitzvah is the desire and therefore even if one is prevented from doing the mitzvah Hashem considers it as if the mitzvah took place. Rav Wolbe adds that understandably one who has a thought to do a mitzvah and does not perform it despite the lack of outside interference, does not fall into the above category. Had he truly had the desire to perform Hashem's will, he would have followed through and would have done it.

This idea is an eye opener regarding the proper way to approach a mitzvah. It seems quite possible that a person who did not actually perform a mitzvah will receive more reward than his counterpart who actually performed that mitzvah but without a true desire! Our desire makes all the difference. Accordingly, one who truly wishes to spend more time learning, davening or performing chessed, but is precluded from doing so because of business or familial obligations, will merit books full of mitzvos to be accredited to his name in the World to Come!